Despite a spate of welcome rain within the last month that greened up brittle landscapes, water consumers are cautioned to not get complacent. We're still in a drought.
"We need a good six inches before we reach 1978 rainfall totals," said Sonoma County Water Agency spokesman Brad Sherwood, comparing this year's lowest rainfall record with the severe drought of the 1970s.
"I think drought conditions most likely are going to continue throughout the year, and we'll see more conservation requirements kick in by cities as we get closer to summer and secure our final rainfall totals."
Residents of Cloverdale already face mandatory cuts of 25 percent and Healdsburg residents have been told the goal is to cut water consumption by 20 percent. Other cities like Windsor have asked residents to voluntarily cut back by 20 percent.
So where do you start?
Sherwood said the biggest thing people can do now, while their irrigation systems are turned off, is to check their water meter.
"Go out to your water meter and become familiar with it and see if you have any leaks inside your house," he said. Temporally turn off the water to the house and then watch the meter. If it is still running, it means there is a leak somewhere that you should get fixed.
By fixing leaky faucets you can save 15 to 20 gallons a day. Fix a leaky toilet and you can save 30 to 50 gallons a day.
Replace an old toilet that uses up to six gallons per flush and you can save a huge amount of water without resorting to the old "if it's yellow, let it mellow" mantra of the past. New water-efficient toilets use only 1.28 gallons. And there are even ultra high-efficiency toilets that use only .8 gallons per flush, said Kimberly Zunino, water resources sustainability manager for the city of Santa Rosa.
Residents within a number of sanitation districts - Occidental, Russian River County, Airport/Larkfield/Wikiup, Geyserville, Penngrove, Sea Ranch and Sonoma Valley who have older toilets that use 3.5 gallons or more per flush may quality for a free toilet replacement under the Direct Install Program (Call 547-1918) for details or to get on a waiting list. The program includes not only a free toilet but free installation as well as low-flow faucet aerators and showerheads.
There are also rebates available of up to $150 in those districts for replacing standard 1.6-gallon low-flush toilets with an ultra low-flush model. These pressure-assisted toilets have a sealed vessel inside the tank that compresses a pocket of air inside as the water fills. When the toilet is flushed, the pressurized air forces the water rapidly into the bowl, creating a powerful, fast flush that has a "whoosh" sound. If you can tolerate the noise, you'll be rewarded when your bill comes.
If you're thinking of buying a new washing machine, now may be the time. You can get up to $125 back on a new high-efficiency clothes washer that can use 40 to 60 percent less water and energy than older, top-loading clothes washers. The machines use only 18 to 25 gallons of water per load compared to 50 or more for top-loading models. Check scwa.org for information about which areas of the county qualify.
Those changes get you a big bang for your water buck. But there are many other ways savvy consumers can cut down their water use without suffering.
Top 5 locations of last drink before DUI arrest
1) Home – 254
2) Friend’s House – 223
3) Relative’s House – 82
4) Graton Casino – 72
5) Car – 56
Source: CHP Last Drink Surveys 2015-2017
DUI arrests in Sonoma County by agency
Every day, on average, more than seven people are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Sonoma County. Two-thirds are arrested by two agencies: CHP and Santa Rosa police, The Press Democrat found in an analysis of 8,074 DUI arrests by 14 law enforcement agencies from 2015 to 2017. Here’s how they break down by agency.
CHP: 3,155 arrests, excluding the City of Sonoma and a good chunk of the Sonoma Valley, which are served by the CHP office in Napa.
Santa Rosa police: 2,000
Petaluma police: 839
Rohnert Park Public Safety: 469
Sebastopol police: 426
Healdsburg police: 394
Cotati police: 185
Sonoma police: 155
Windsor police: 139
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office: 100
Santa Rosa Junior College police: 87
Cloverdale police: 70
Sonoma State University police: 31
California State Parks rangers: 24