State calls on North Bay cities to save 20-25 percent under new order

Eleven North Bay cities and water agencies are at least halfway to meeting the water conservation standards proposed by regulators to achieve Gov. Jerry Brown’s demand for a statewide 25 percent cut in water use this year. Two of those cities - Santa Rosa and Ukiah - have nearly hit their marks.

Ukiah, credited with achieving 19 percent savings compared to 2013 water use, is 1 percent away from the 20 percent conservation standard it must meet under the proposed framework announced by the State Water Board late Tuesday evening.

Santa Rosa, credited with 18 percent conservation to date, also needs to hit the 20 percent mark this year.

“We’re amazingly thankful to our customers for doing what they’ve done for the past year,” said Jennifer Burke, deputy director of water and engineering services. If residents “keep it up,” the city should meet its state goal, she said.

Santa Rosa is reviewing its water shortage plan and expects to recommend to the City Council a limit on the number of days per week that residents may water their lawns, Burke said. Current city rules restrict watering to the nighttime hours between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The city also is anticipating new state regulations, including a ban on the use of potable water to irrigate turf on street median strips, she said.

The State Water Board set conservation standards for more than 400 urban water suppliers based on residents’ average individual water use in September 2014, when suppliers began reporting that figure to the state. Jurisdictions with higher per capita use will be required to achieve greater reductions, up to 35 percent, while cities with lower individual water use will be under a lower standard, down to 10 percent.

All 11 North Bay cities and agencies fell into the 20 to 25 percent conservation tiers.

Dan Muelrath, general manager of the Valley of the Moon Water District, said he expects little hardship in closing the small gap between the 19 percent savings since 2013 and the state targets this year.

“We shouldn’t have trouble getting to 20 percent,” Muelrath said.

The state framework “rewards our customers for the conservation they’ve already done,” he said, encouraging his water-saving customers “to remain diligent” and others “to step up” their conservation efforts.

The standards released Tuesday gave Valley of the Moon a 25 percent conservation target this year, but Muelrath said he had advised state officials that it was based on an incorrect value for the district’s individual water use. The correct target, he said, was 20 percent.

Rohnert Park was credited with 11 percent savings, with Windsor, Marin Municipal Water District and Sweetwater Springs Water District at 15 percent. All four suppliers were given a 20 percent target.

The remaining local suppliers were assigned a 25 percent conservation standard this year, with Petaluma at 14 percent to date, Sonoma at 15 percent, Healdsburg at 17 percent and the North Marin Water District at 19 percent.

Grant Davis, general manager of the Sonoma County Water Agency, which supplies drinking water to 660,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties, expressed confidence that the nine local retailers his agency serves will meet their conservation standards this year. He acknowledged the governor’s office for “taking note of the hard work by regions like ours.”

“This region has led the charge,” Davis said.

Eight of the Water Agency customers cited in the state framework had a collective conservation rate of 16 percent, compared with 2013 water use.

Statewide, only 18 water suppliers, including the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, reported individual water use under 55 gallons a day, which is California’s standard for indoor-only water use, gaining them a 10 percent conservation target.

One hundred and twenty-six water suppliers reported per capita use of 55 to 110 gallons per day, qualifying them for a 20 percent target; 132 suppliers had daily personal consumption of 110 to 165 gallons, giving them a 25 percent target.

The 135 water suppliers whose customers were using more than 165 gallons a day were assigned a 35 percent conservation target this year. No North Bay cities or districts were in that group of suppliers.

Top mark for personal water consumption was 40 gallons per person in the coastal San Luis Obispo County town of Cambria, which has battled severe water shortages and got credit for a 43 percent cut in water use since 2013.

The Santa Fe Irrigation District, which serves wealthy San Diego County communities dotted with 3-acre estates, had the highest consumption at 584 gallons per person and was shown to have increased water use by 2 percent since 2013.

The State Water Board intends to complete work on the regulatory framework this month, submit the rules to its five-member board - appointed by the governor - for approval in early May and implement them by the end of that month.

The board has authority to enforce its regulations with warning letters or fines up to $10,000 a day against water suppliers in violation of the rules.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or On Twitter @guykovner.

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