Mandatory water conservation orders in place across a wider swath of Sonoma County

Several Sonoma County cities are shifting from voluntary to mandatory water conservation, as the drought continues.|

Two more Sonoma County cities have adopted mandatory water conservation measures as municipalities around the region grapple with declining water supplies and several other elected councils, including Santa Rosa’s, prepare to upgrade their own drought restrictions.

City councils in Petaluma and Sonoma this week joined Cloverdale, Healdsburg and Rohnert Park in approving mandatory reductions in water consumption as well as restrictions on how and when certain kinds of household water use will be permitted.

Healdsburg’s 40% conservation target is still the highest in the county, but Cloverdale and Petaluma now will both require reductions intended to achieve 25% savings citywide.

Sonoma officials, meanwhile, imposed a new stage of conservation calling on residents collectively to use 20% less water than they did on average from 2018 to 2020. Rohnert Park adopted a 20% reduction mandate back in May.

All five communities also have limits on activities including landscape irrigation, washing of cars and other vehicles outside of commercial facilities, filling swimming pools, washing down pavement and sidewalks, using potable water for dust control, using ornamental fountains and the like.

Both Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors declared drought emergencies for the region back in April, prompting elected bodies around the area to impose voluntary conservation measures over the ensuing weeks.

Cloverdale and Healdsburg were the first to adopt mandatory reductions because of their greater dependence on water from the Russian River above its confluence with Dry Creek, which carries water from Lake Sonoma.

Rohnert Park acted early, as well, adopting mandatory rationing even before some communities had asked for voluntary conservation.

The move by other cities from voluntary to mandatory restrictions reflects a worsening drought generally as well as a specific requirement that Sonoma Water, the wholesale supplier to most cities south of Healdsburg, withdraw a fifth less water from the Russian River this year than last, beginning July 1.

The reduction was part of an order finalized early last week by the State Water Resources Control Board. It capped how much Sonoma Water can deliver to its contractors this year.

That’s why the Santa Rosa City Council will consider a mandatory 20% water savings on Tuesday, Santa Rosa Water Director Jennifer Burke said. Assuming it’s approved, it will take effect immediately, she said.

Officials in Windsor will ask the Town Council there to institute mandatory 20% reductions and new prohibitions at its meeting July 21, Public Works Director Shannon Cotulla said.

Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett said she has heard a range of reactions to her city’s conservation program — from, “Why did we wait so long?” to “My car is going to be shiny.”

And she said lots of people already have cut their water use repeatedly, while others think they have better ideas about how to approach the issue, and still others will be challenged to make the sacrifices needed to live with less water.

“This is where we are,” she said. “This is our challenge. We’ve got to figure out how to do it.”

Mike Brett, water conservation coordinator for the city of Sonoma, said he has observed signs of improvement around the town, from less runoff on the sidewalk related to residential watering to participation in the city’s turf removal program.

“Our residents have been here before, and I’m confident they have what it takes to get through this drought, as they have in the past,” Brett said.

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

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