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Cloverdale adopts 35% water conservation goal

Citizens of Cloverdale are now under orders to cut the city’s water use by 35% from last year’s levels.

The City Council voted Wednesday night to advance the community’s conservation efforts and means Cloverdale’s roughly 9,000 people will have to dig deep to meet the moment.

Water use figures show they only recently started to reach the 25% reduction goal set in late April after hitting the target on only five days in July, City Manager David Kelley said.

The new mandates still aren’t as strict as required under curtailment orders issued Aug. 2 by the State Water Resources Control Board. The board directed water providers that draw supplies from the upper Russian River to cease all diversions. The only exemptions are for up to 55 gallons per day per resident for human health and safety.

Cloverdale residents on average used 117 gallons per person per day last year and now are using about 88, Kelley said. Under the city’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan, residents now are limited to 65 gallons per person per day, with a citywide conservation goal of 35%.

City officials said they wanted to demonstrate to the State Water Board that they are making what Mayor Marta Cruz described as a “good faith effort” to reduce water use as historic drought takes its toll on the region’s water supply.

Council members were hesitant to go too far too fast, however, with restrictions that would prohibit outdoor irrigation or require 40% conservation goals, as recommended by city staff.

“I want to make sure we try to reduce the impact as much as possible to the families,” Councilman Joe Palla said during Wednesday’s meeting, “recognizing they’re going to do everything in their power to reduce their water use, recognizing the drought.”

At the same time, city attorneys may seek exemption from the 55 gallon per day limitation because of ambiguity around how commercial and industrial uses are calculated. There were also outstanding questions about the water board’s authority to curtail pre-1914 water rights — those that existed before the state began regulating water claims.

Kelley said some of the city’s water also comes from what are considered groundwater wells that may fall outside the curtailment order.

Lake Mendocino, which supplies all the water in the upper Russian River at this point, is at its second lowest storage level in history. It is at risk of running dry if this winter is like the last two: critically dry.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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