Healdsburg could order mandatory water cutbacks

  • Jerry Weaklend does it himself at the Healdsburg Auto Wash, Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014 (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Healdsburg could become the first city in Sonoma County to impose mandatory water conservation measures as drought continues to grip the North Coast.

The City Council on Tuesday is set to consider a staff recommendation to approve a Stage 2 mandatory compliance water alert because Stage 1 voluntary conservation measures, in effect since last summer, failed to achieve the desired result.

Most, but not all of Healdsburg's municipal wells rely on water from the Russian River. With upstream releases into the river from Lake Mendocino significantly reduced, city officials want to make sure the wells don't run dry.

"We can see the Russian River is way down from what it would be now. It influences the level of groundwater and how easy it is to get out," said Healdsburg Utilities Director Terry Crowley.

Mandatory conservation measures are similar to the water use guidelines in Stage 1, but require strict compliance.

Residents and businesses are only allowed to irrigate outdoors during evening and early morning hours, only every other day, and not on Mondays.

They also cannot allow runoff, and residents washing their cars and other vehicles have to use a bucket and shut-off nozzle.

Nonresidential customers have to cut their water use to 80 percent of what they used last year.

Excessive water users face potential fines and their service can be curtailed, but city officials say they aren't looking to punish anyone.

"You want to work with people to educate (them) on how to conserve water," Crowley said.

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