Healdsburg adopts mandatory 40% water conservation level
Residents of Healdsburg are under new orders to reduce their water use by 40% compared to a year ago — a challenging new threshold that doubles a mandatory 20% conservation level established in May that the city so far has been unable to meet.
In fact, May 2021 water consumption was 3% higher than in May 2020, though more recent usage figures demonstrate a rolling seven-day average reduction of 15%, according to a city staff report.
Still, a deeper cut was necessary because of recent restrictions placed by state water regulators on diversions from the Russian River, reducing the availability of supplies the city depends on to provide water for its consumers.
While it does have access to wells near Dry Creek, through agreement with the Sonoma County water agency, it will only be enough if residents and others carefully limit how much water they consume, officials said.
With water storage in Lake Mendocino shrinking by the day, Healdsburg and the city of Cloverdale, which has 25% conservation requirements in place, are so far the only Sonoma County municipalities under mandatory rationing. They are also the only ones located above the confluence of Dry Creek, where releases from Lake Sonoma supplement flows in the Russian River.
But Sonoma Water, which supplies more than 600,000 customers in Sonoma and northern Marin counties, has pledged to reduce diversions from the river by one-fifth in order to help maintain storage and maintain in-stream flows for imperiled salmon and steelhead.
Most cities in the two counties have adopted voluntary conservation goals of 20%, though Sonoma, the last to act, approved a 15% target this week. Sebastopol, which gets its water from groundwater wells, has asked for conservation at the 10% level.
Lakes Sonoma and Mendocino are at their lowest levels ever for this time of year after two years of extremely low rainfall.
Healdsburg’s drought measures, first adopted May 3 and upgraded by the City Council earlier this week, already included significant water use restrictions. They now prohibit irrigation of any lawn with potable water as well as planting of any new landscaping or grass.
Residents now have an allowance of 74 gallons per person, per day for indoor water use, for cleaning, bathing and cooking.
More information is available at bit.ly/3pJlBhL.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.
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.