Cloverdale dials back mandatory water conservation to voluntary

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Cloverdale’s water situation has improved dramatically over the past year, to the point that the City Council has scaled back the conservation measures it is asking of residents and businesses.

Plugging of major leaks in the city pipelines and reductions in water use have resulted in an overall drop of 37 percent over the past year, exceeding the city’s 25 percent goal.

The drilling of two new city wells, along with a slight easing of the prolonged drought, have also contributed to a less precarious outlook for Cloverdale.

As a result, the City Council on a 4-0 vote Wednesday decided to drop its “mandatory” water reduction program, and instead make conservation measures “voluntary.”

The practical effect is that lawns won’t have to go brown — residents will no longer have to apply to City Hall for permission to water their turf. And they also can water newly planted landscaping.

But residents are still being asked to voluntarily conserve by running automatic sprinklers only at night and only every other day, for example. They also are being asked not to hose down sidewalks and driveways, and to use a shut-off valve if they wash their vehicles.

The city’s cash-for-grass program and low-flow toilet “direct install” programs will continue.

Cloverdale’s new voluntary 20 percent reduction goal brings it into conformity with most other cities on the North Coast and Gov. Jerry Brown’s statewide target when he called for conservation a year ago.

“The residents have really changed the culture of how they use water,” Cloverdale Mayor Bob Cox said Thursday.

He said achieving the 20 percent voluntary goal should pose no problem, so it makes sense to lower the threshold from the more serious Stage II water conservation level back to Stage I.

He denied that it will send the wrong message about conserving during a stubborn statewide drought.

“There’s a quality-of-life situation. People have sacrificed for a while,” Cox said.

Cloverdale’s 37 percent reduction from 2013 to 2014 appears to be one of the highest among North Coast water providers, based on a state water conservation report.

During the same period, the Valley of the Moon Water District achieved a 34 percent reduction; Healdsburg, 26 percent; Santa Rosa, 23 percent; Rohnert Park, 18 percent; Windsor, 18 percent; Ukiah, 18 percent; Petaluma, 15 percent; and the city of Sonoma, 3 percent.

Figures for Cotati and Sebastopol were not included in the report because the state collects data only from water suppliers with 3,000 or more connections.

George Kostyrko, spokesman for the State Water Quality Control Board, said that in general the North Coast, Central Coast and San Francisco region “are acutely aware of where water comes from and how important it is to conserve.”

With the state entering its fourth dry year and the Sierra snowpack at a low level, he said state regulators soon will be looking at whether “we need to enhance any of the water conservation mandates. Are there extra steps, other things to be done, to reduce water use going into a fourth dry year?”

Cloverdale, he said, “sounds like it’s doing pretty well.”

The water supply situation has improved greatly in Cloverdale, according to city officials, to the point that the City Council ended a moratorium on new water hookups late last year.

The lifting of the moratorium has allowed a new 47-unit affordable housing unit to be approved as well as a senior living facility.

Cloverdale relies on water pumped from wells next to the Russian River, which flows from releases out of Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, now at around 97 percent capacity.

Things were dicey when one of Cloverdale’s main wells malfunctioned in late 2013, before it was repaired.

Two new wells were drilled last year, part of a public-private partnership with Bear Republic Brewery that will allow the company to expand its production and provide capacity for other development in the city.

The two new wells provided 1 million gallons more of water per day, according to Public Works Director Craig Scott.

In addition, the city last year repaired a leak of about 250,000 gallons per day. That water was flowing mostly into a storm drain that fed into the Russian River, he said.

Currently, city wells can deliver 3.7 million gallons per day, well above the 2 million gallons a day that the system sometimes demands during hot summer days.

“We’ve turned the corner. But we’re still battling an aging infrastructure,” Scott said.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @clarkmas.

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