Healdsburg votes to restrict water use

Healdsburg on Tuesday became the first city in Sonoma County to enact mandatory water conservation measures as a result of a stubborn drought that shows no sign of easing.

The City Council unanimously declared a water shortage emergency intended to cut use by 20 percent, something voluntary measures in effect since June had failed to achieve.

"It's a regional problem. But it's important for us not to just think about ourselves," Mayor Jim Wood said. "I hope other cities will follow suit."

The move comes amid a record California drought with three consecutive dry years.

Long-term weather predictions don't offer much hope. Models predict drought will persist or intensify in California and the Pacific Northwest through the end of April, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"We may get a shower or two," Healdsburg resident Gail Jonas told the City Council, citing the dire long-term forecast. "It won't trump the longer outlook. We're in for a real severe water shortage."

"It's time to start. We're ahead of the curve," Councilman Gary Plass said, adding that water conservation will likely be a fact of life.

"I think it's for longer. If we get 10 inches of rain, I won't say we're out of the woods," he said.

The mandatory conservation measures, or Stage 2, approved Tuesday, are similar to water use guidelines in Stage 1, but require strict compliance. They take effect immediately.

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

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