Cloverdale imposes mandatory water conservation



Cloverdale on Wednesday became the second city in Sonoma County to impose mandatory water conservation measures, the day after neighboring Healdsburg did the same.

That means Cloverdale residents must curtail their water use by 25 percent compared to the same time last year, to deal with the record drought gripping the state.

Cloverdale municipal wells rely entirely on the Russian River, which is running exceptionally low, prompting projections that the wells will not be able to produce enough water to meet demand.

"We've seen the river levels drop off dramatically in the past two weeks," Cloverdale Public Works director Craig Scott said.

He said without a 25 percent reduction in water consumption, the city's demand will exceed supply beginning around April 1 and face the prospect of wells running dry.

"We're projecting we will be short without aggressive reduction," he said.

The City Council unanimously approved the mandatory conservation measures, which go into effect immediately.

That means people cannot wash off sidewalks or driveways with an open hose, and can only use a hose or drip irrigation on lawns and shrubbery.

"I'm anticipating we're going to see a lot of brown lawns this summer," said City Manager Paul Cayler, who said it is critical to keep enough water on hand for drinking and bathing, as well as fire protection.

In restaurants, water will not be served to customers, unless requested.

Councilwoman Mary Ann Brigham, who owns a brewpub, said she expects to see paper plates and paper cups become the norm.

Brigham said she is bitterly disappointed because water scarcity is curtailing her plans to expand production of her Ruth McGowan's beer line. But she said conservation is necessary to ensure the city doesn't go dry.

Cloverdale has the option to penalize customers who don't comply with fines or cutting off service, but won't be reviewing their water records unless they are reported for excessive use. The emphasis is on education.

"We're going to get the message out to all citizens to pitch in to save as much water as they can," Scott said.

"It's really important we start conservation early and hope that we get rain soon," Councilman Joe Palla said. "It's scary to think this is the third year we've had a drought year."

"We are in an emergency, big time. We just have to plan to cut back," Councilman Bob Cox said.

Both Cloverdale and Healdsburg are situated on the upper Russian River and are different from other communities in Sonoma County because they are dependent on releases from Lake Mendocino, which is at a record low level.

Lake Mendocino is currently at only 37 percent of capacity, noted Brad Sherwood, spokesman for the Sonoma County Water Agency.

The water situation for cities in the rest of Sonoma County is not as dire because most rely on Lake Sonoma, which is at about 67 percent of capacity.

Lake Sonoma discharges into Dry Creek, which then joins the lower Russian River, and supplies about 600,000 users in Sonoma County and parts of Marin.

Still, the message has gone out to conserve around the state because of the record dry weather.

Gov. Jerry Brown last week declared a state drought emergency and requested Californians reduce their water usage voluntarily by 20 percent.

Sherwood said it would take another 13 inches of rain in Sonoma County just to get back to the rainfall levels of 1977, another bad drought year.

But there doesn't seem to be relief in sight.

"It's looking bone dry out there," Sherwood said. "It doesn't look like we'll have any rain this month.

With only a couple more months left in the rainy season "you hope for a fantastic February, or a miracle March," he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or