Water for the Next 150 Years
by David Keller
(Excerpt from Winter, 2005 newsletter)
We usually use horizons of less than a generation in water planning: General Plans propose growth over 20 years. Politicians think in 4-year cycles. We presume more water will always be there. We have to do better.
From 1950 to 1990, global water demands for drinkable water tripled. North Bay use doubled since 1975. We use about 1/2 acre-foot of water per family per year, about 163,000 gallons: that’s a 2750 sq.ft. home filled to its 8 foot ceilings. Most of the world uses less. During our dry summers, about half our water use is for outdoor irrigation of landscapes and lawns.
As consumption grows, water demands approach the natural limits of supply, with emerging signs of trouble: falling water tables, increasingly polluted aquifers, dying rivers and fish, shrinking wetlands and damaged local economies.
With scarcity, water wars begin: Urban users vs. agriculture vs. fisheries. Region vs. region. Migrations, moratoriums and lawsuits occur.
We have problems now. The overdrafted groundwater basins of Penngrove, Rohnert Park and Sebastopol are local warnings. Also, since 1908, the Potter Valley Project, a small PG&E hydropower project on the Eel River, has diverted about 180,000 acre-feet per year to the Russian River via Lake Mendocino reservoir. PGE dams block fish from spawning. Eel River fisheries and recreational economies have collapsed, costing Humboldt, Mendocino and Lake Counties over $15 Million per year. This is a direct transfer of wealth from northern counties to subsidize growth in Sonoma and Marin counties. It is truly theft on a grand scale that needs to stop.
The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) pumps 75,000 acre feet from the Russian River and groundwater to sell to Sonoma and Marin customers, and wants more. Since 1949 SCWA has pumped water from the huge gravel aquifer of the Russian River’s Middle Reach with no additional filtration; the state only requires chlorination.
This aquifer stores and filters the water naturally, for free.
SCWA is planning a huge $1+ Billion water filtration plant at ratepayer expense, needed if further compromise of the natural filtration system affects drawing more water from Lake Sonoma. Ironically, the concrete for construction would use gravel mined from the aquifer.
We need a comprehensive river and groundwater management plans, so we can begin controlling pollutants, erosion, water temperature, gravel mining, excess nutrients, ludwigia, and other system stresses.
The costs to repair these damages? Hundreds of millions of dollars compared to $1+ Billion for a new water filtration plant. Though, it is far cheaper to preserve natural values and functions that we depend on for human needs than to try to replace them when lost.
Water Watch: SCWA at it Again
SCCA, in coalition with North Coast environmental groups, needs your help to bring our valuable and endangered North Coast rivers and fisheries back to health, while setting the stage for effective and sustainable water supplies. The new water supply agreement for the Sonoma County Water Agency and its contractors is now being reviewed for approval. Rohnert Park and Cotati have already signed the agreement. All our hard work, hopes and plans for improvements to water and watershed management for the next 35 years are being decided now.
See Letter Below, written by David Keller (Bay Area Director of Friends of the Eel River), regarding the Sonoma County Water Agency’s water supply agreement renewal proposal, to the Sonoma City Council. This letter, along with many others from concerned citizens, helped to sway the City of Sonoma, by a 3-2 vote, to continue the discussion on the exclusion of the Potter Valley Project and not sign the Agreement as is. The council’s action supported a decision made by the North Marin Water District several nights prior to the Sonoma meeting.
TO: Mayor Larry Barnett
Members of the City Council
City of Sonoma
1 The Plaza
Sonoma, CA 95476
email: City Council <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mayor Barnett <email@example.com>
RE: Agenda item: Discussion and possible approval of Restructured Agreement for Water Supply (“Agreement”),
Sept. 21, 2005. Additional Comments on the Potter Valley Project
Dear Mayor Barnett and Members of the City Council
The Agreement will shape policy, practices and costs among contractors on their customers’ supply and use of water, the Russian and Eel River watersheds, groundwater and growth. It will obligate ratepayers to pay for the myriad of collection, storage, transmission, and treatment projects, as well as restoration and mitigation projects for environmental damages. This binding contract between SCWA and the 9 Prime Water Contractors replaces all the prior Amended Agreements (the last was Amendment 11, signed in 2001), and runs until 2040.
Friends of the Eel River urges you to delete the proposed purchase of the Potter Valley Project (“PVP”) from the Agreement. (see Agreement excerpts, Note A, below)
As fiscal and policy managers for your customers’ water supplies and cost of service, we urge you to complete your due diligence prior to signing off on this multimillion dollar, 35 year Agreement, which your ratepayers will be responsible to pay for.
1. The financial costs and risks of purchasing and operating the PVP are huge, likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars, yet remain undefined for local ratepayers. You should have in hand the projected costs of decommissioning, or repairing, replacing and updating the PVP.
For instance, the Aug. 8, 2000 Amendment to the 1965 Agreement between PG&E and SCWA states:
“7. The terms of sale … shall include an express assumption by District of all responsibility for decommissioning the Potter Valley Project and any associated environmental restoration or remediation…” The 45 day time limit for accepting or rejecting the purchase offer would severely compromise contractors’ ability to discuss these costs with their ratepayers.
Ask SCWA for the costs of installing an effective fish ladder and fish passage past Cape Horn (Van Arsdale Lake) and Scott Dams (Lake Pillsbury). Ask them to provide you with the costs of installing and maintaining an effective fish screen at the tunnel headworks. Ask them to reveal the habitat restoration costs as a result of PVP’s damages to the Eel River endangered fisheries. Why should your ratepayers assume unknown risks with the Agreement’s planned purchase of the PVP?
2. SCWA has repeatedly declared over the years and in court documents that the water diverted from the Eel River is NOT necessary for water deliveries to Sonoma and Marin county Prime Water Contractors, but instead is used for water users of the upper Russian River. Ask SCWA to tell you their plans for when Eel River water diversions cease or are severly reduced. Why should local ratepayers assume the costs and risks of this small, antiquated hydroelectric project for water not used by them?
3. Since 1908, the PVP water diversions have been instrumental in the collapse of the once great salmonid and steelhead populations of the Eel River. The dams prevent passage of migrating fish to hundreds of miles of cold, clear spawning and rearing habitat upstream, and flows during the summer and fall are reduced to a lethal current of warm, algae and bacteria infested toxic water. The economic losses to Humboldt, Mendocino and Lake counties are well over $15M per year just for lost recreational fishing and boating activities. It is long past time to end this destructive practice. Why should water contractors continue it?
4. SCWA has NO water rights for the water diverted through the PVP, and the State Water Resources Control Board has continuously denied their applications. The inclusion of the purchasing provision in the Agreement is merely an attempt to shore up political persuasion for future applications.
We strongly encourage all of you to ask, and get, full responses from SCWA in writing to these facts and your questions PRIOR to signing off on a 35 year obligation of your ratepayers.
Ask SCWA how much the new Agreement will cost your district and your ratepayers, now and for stated obligations over the next 35 years. (See letter from MMWD to SCWA, attached)
As policy makers, we strongly support your inquiries about core policies, costs, and the Agreement’s failure to firmly define and address sustainability in our water supplies and watersheds. Ask for the elimination of wastewater discharges to the Russian River above the intake pumps. Ask for the elimination of gravel mining of the aquifer and for improving and enlarging free aquifer storage and natural filtration. Ask for inclusion of mandatory and targeted water and energy efficiencies, not just voluntary conservation. Ask them what the proposed water treatment plant for Lake Sonoma would cost. In 2001, SCWA estimated the costs to be $500-700 Million.
For those of you who remember the Amendment 11 approvals, and the subsequent public workshops conducted by the Contractors in 2002-2003, you will undoubtedly notice that most of the principles and policy goals relating to watershed management and sustainability of our water supplies have disappeared from this final Agreement. (see www.scwa.gov/publicoutreach.html for results of those workshops.) (see Note B, below) The overarching desires of the stakeholders, residents and ratepayers who participated in those hearings was for comprehensive and integrated planning and consideration of environmental impacts, and the promotion of thriving ecosystems.
Those goals, as well as others relating to SCWA governance, and system wide goals for the protection of watersheds and water quality have been diluted or removed from the Agreement. That dismissal of broad public input followed SCWA’s summary announcement in Feb 2002 that it was drafting its own water agreement, and would not be bound by the contractor initiated public process that started in Nov. 2001. Contractors then started their own meetings with consultants and SCWA, shaping the document now on the table.
These issues and opportunities have not gone away. You, as a Prime Water Contractor, have the ability to restore specific and important policies and protections to the Agreement.
Unlike the Board of Supervisors, you as local elected officials are answerable to the ratepayers for what you charge for water supplies. Please insist on clear and responsible answers now, before you sign the Agreement.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this Agreement. We would be pleased to provide further information to assist in your decision making, and will be present to address these issues on Tuesday, Sept. 20.
Friends of the Eel River
*For more information on this topic, contact Friends of the Eel River at thier main office in Garberville: 707 923-2146 or the Marin Office: 415-331-3828 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
LAGUNA DE SANTA ROSA – HIDDEN JEWEL: CHARTING THE FUTURE OF THE VAST WETLAND HAS IMPLICATIONS FROM LIVESTOCK AND FLOOD CONTROL TO RECREATION AND RESTORATION
By Bleis Rose, The Press Democrat
March 25, 2007
The second-largest freshwater wetland in Northern California is hidden in the fields of west Sonoma County, gaining attention only when nature forces people to deal with its eccentricities.
Although 254 miles square, the Laguna de Santa Rosa is almost invisible, save for the times when it closes highways during flooding, catches leaking sewage from the Santa Rosa treatment plant or turns out to be infested with some madly invasive weed.
Long considered an environmental treasure, the waterway running from Cotati to Forestville is getting new attention as the experts struggle to figure out how best to put it on display.
“The public perception of the area as a wetlands jewel has resulted in a widespread outpouring of public sentiment in support of its protection and restoration,” says the recently completed management plan issued by the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation. “But a deeper look at the wetlands reveals a long list of ecological imbalances that portend a darker future.”
In times of Russian River flooding, the laguna operates like a giant bathtub as it accepts water backing up from Windsor and Mark West Creek and prevents catastrophe in the lower Russian River Valley.
But with planning and money, the laguna could support a network of trails for “passive recreation” like hiking, bird-watching and picnicking. Biking and horseback riding through the laguna, and kayaking and canoeing in its waters, are also viewed as possible.
Renewed focus on the laguna comes as scientists, environmentalists and community groups convene a conference this week designed to chart future restoration efforts. It will be the first time in 18 years that so many groups with a stake in the laguna have come together.
Already, scientists are discovering new threats to the laguna. They include European slugs, automobile exhaust and a new weed, Glyceria declinata, increasingly found in Northern California vernal pools. Likewise, they are scratching their heads over new discoveries of species, definitely non-native to the laguna.
Egrets, herons appear
For example, as crews worked to remove the waterway-choking Ludwigia plant, they were astounded to see swarms of egrets and herons descend on marshes freshly denuded of the water weed.
Researchers from UC Davis found Louisiana crayfish had been thriving amidst the mass of invasive Ludwigia.
“Crayfish may have been introduced in the last century by the restaurant industry, some got loose and they’ve been in the laguna quite a while,” said foundation research director Christina Sloop. Researchers discovered that the shellfish had found a home after the Ludwigia was cleared out and egrets and herons swooped in for a feeding frenzy. Sloop said the Glyceria declinata plant is a non-native species that “just came on the radar.”
Also known as Eurasian waxy mannagrass or sweet grass, the grass-like plant that grows long and sparse and spreads sideways “might become a competitor to our endangered plants,” Sloop said.
Like a giant petri dish, the laguna is cultivating all manner of organisms, including endangered species such as the tiger salamander and three types of plants.
As a treasure chest of wildlife and plant life, the laguna is the focus of political and environmental scrutiny. City and county officials, along with environmentalists and construction industry officials, are crafting a building permit process in which mitigation programs play a major role.
New studies to be presented at this week’s conference will also highlight revised thinking about restoration. For example, at the 1989 conference, farmers whose lands border the laguna were on the defensive against charges that livestock runoff pollutes the wetland. This time, scientists are prepared to demonstrate how livestock and sheep could help restoration by feeding on invasive plants.
Mark Green, foundation associate executive director, said the 1989 conference, attended by about 200 people, was instrumental in bringing together environmentalists, scientists and community groups keen on saving the laguna. This year, sponsors anticipate more than 250 will register for the event, which runs Thursday through Sunday at Sonoma State University.
The Laguna Foundation was formed as a result of the 1989 conference and it remained an all-volunteer group until 2002, when it evolved into a nonprofit with funding, employees and programs.
“It is time to go beyond the laguna’s stakeholders’ interests and to roll this out to the community as waterway that we depend upon for agriculture, flood control and recreation that merits restoration,” Green said. “Laguna preservation should not be theoretical; we are trying to figure out what is effective.”
You can reach Staff Writer Bleys W. Rose at 521-5431 or email@example.com.
Asking a Few Questions About Conservation
By Chris Coursey, The Press Democrat
July 16, 2007
Water Agency officials may be right when they blame the heat for Sonoma County’s miserable effort during the first week of mandatory water conservation. But something tells me there’s more at work here than just a few hot days.
Actually, it’s not something that tells me that, it’s someone — several someones, in fact.
I can’t recall a single person I’ve talked to about this issue who hasn’t wondered why, if all of us are being asked to conserve water, there’s been no mention of a plan to stop — or at least cut back — the construction of new houses. Or condos. Or apartments, or office buildings, or casinos.
I don’t think most people have any objection to conserving water. Most of us understand that we live in a climate that wouldn’t ordinarily sustain our water-lavish lifestyle, and if we want that lifestyle to continue, we need to find ways to use every drop more wisely.
It’s a matter of fairness. The sentiment seems to be: I’m willing to make sacrifices, but why should I sacrifice any more than anyone else?
Growth in Sonoma County may not be the runaway train that it was 20 years ago, but it hasn’t come to a standstill, either. And people begin to look askance at new subdivisions and apartment buildings when their leaders start talking about a water shortage (even if the “shortage” is a delivery problem rather than a supply problem).
Isn’t all of that new construction making the problem worse?
Of course it is.
Why, then, if we are being asked to reduce our water use by 15 percent, are local governments not reducing building permits by 15 percent?
I’m sure someone has a good answer to that question. I’ll let you know when I hear it.
After the growth question, the next most frequent response I’ve heard to this water-conservation request is, essentially, “How do you squeeze blood from a turnip?”
OK, that’s not the best metaphor, but a lot of people feel like they’ve already “given” all they can in the name of conservation. They’ve dropped the blue tablets in their toilet tanks and fixed the leaks. They’ve participated in their cities’ low-flush toilet retrofit programs. They’ve installed stingy shower heads, smaller lawns, water-efficient gardens and front-load washing machines. They drive dirty cars.
And then they’re asked to cut back by another 15 percent.
The Water Agency’s Pam Jeane acknowledged this dilemma in my colleague Bob Norberg’s story the other day, reporting the county’s first week of conservation efforts netted a reduction of just 6.4 percent.
“You implement best management practices, install all low-flow fixtures, low water-use landscaping, you do all these things and you get to the point that the only way to save more is a real impact,” Jeane said. “There is a very large majority of people who feel like they have done everything for conservation they could do.”
And, when they look around and see that not everyone else is doing everything, they wonder:
Why should we do more?
As alluded to earlier, this isn’t a supply problem that will go away with the first wet winter. It’s a delivery problem — the water’s available in Lake Sonoma, but pouring enough of it into Dry Creek to sate our needs will wipe out endangered salmon.
So, expect in the not-too-distant future to hear of plans for a pipeline to bypass the creek. An expensive pipeline. (I know, it’s redundant.)
And expect on the heels of that announcement to hear a debate about who should pay for it — all of us, or just the people who don’t live here yet whose new homes are making it necessary?
EDITORIAL: Growth and water
From Sonoma West Times and News, July 18, 2007
The summer of 2007 could well be remembered as a watershed season in the annals of Russian River hydro politics.
As we should all know by now, the state has ordered a 15-percent reduction in water usage. Sonoma County Water Agency officials are struggling to get their customers to meet that goal. A combination of low rainfall and regulated flows from Lake Mendocino have combined to cause what Supervisor Tim Smith referred to as a “regulatory drought” and low flows in the Russian River.
It’s a nice term that attempts to deflect the responsibility from our own actions, or inactions, to that of distant state regulators. The fact is that the Russian River water system has been artificially regulated since 1908 when a tunnel was built to carry (or steal) Eel River water and bring it to Sonoma County. Old timers remember droughts when the Russian River would run dry in spots.
Two dams later, three endangered species, a steady growth in population and the dependence on a limited water supply for agriculture and recreation, and we have a watershed that is stretched to its limits.
It is a watershed that some believe has exceeded its holding capacity. State regulators, county water officials and local elected leaders are facing a serious dilemma that will require more than brilliant engineering to solve. Rather than approach this as an engineering problem, might we consider it as a watershed problem?
We assume at some point the discussion regarding water supply, water shortages and regulatory droughts will eventually turn to the topic of growth, which after all, got us into this situation in the first place. It is becoming apparent that Sonoma County is approaching capacity in terms of water supply. We can recycle, reuse and reduce as much water as possible, but if this is only the first dry year in an extended drought, what will subsequent years bring?
We live in a place prone to droughts and earthquakes. In each case, it is not a matter of if, but when, the next one will arrive.
How can all the interested parties, regulators, elected officials, agricultural and business leaders and environmentalists, come together and define the limits of our watershed? How do we all work together to live within those limits in an equitable and responsible fashion?
Growth is an inevitable fact of life in California, or at least it has been for the past century. Given the climate, geography and proximity to mountains, desert and sea, not to mention the allure of quick riches, the idea that this is indeed the promised land requires little imagination. It will require a great deal of imagination, and cooperation, to keep the promise of the Russian River watershed alive.
– Barry W. Dugan, Editor
Officials see ‘manageable’ situation if everyone pitches in
By Bob Norberg, The Press Democrat
July 24, 2007
With water conservation figures edging ever closer to the savings mandated by the state, the Sonoma County Water Agency’s primary customers said Monday that they want to stick to voluntary efforts.
“It is not our belief that this is a crisis,” said Rohnert Park Councilman Jake Mackenzie, who is chairman of a committee of cities and districts supplied by the Water Agency.
“The contractors believe this is generally manageable. We are close to the goal, and we also know our goal has to be met over a four-month period.”
The Water Agency is under state order to reduce diversions from the Russian River by 15 percent through Oct. 28, compared to the same period in 2004.
As the contractors group began discussions Monday about how to allocate the available supply, the Water Agency said the cumulative savings since the order took effect July 1 is now 14.2 percent.
That’s a significant increase from the first four days of July when an 8.5 percent conservation rate was attributed to a hot spell.
The contractors asked the Water Agency to let them work collectively to meet the target without having individual allocations set.
“It should work without any formal allocations. We have all been pitching in, and we will continue to do the same thing,” said Krishna Kumar, the Valley of the Moon Water District’s general manager.
Kumar said, however, that if they should start to fall short of the target, “we will have to regroup.”
The 14.2 percent savings for the first three weeks of July are an indication that people are taking the conservation message seriously, said Pam Jeane, the Water Agency’s deputy director of operations.
“If we are that close to 14 percent cumulative now, that means that people are saving more than 15 percent, because we were not there at the beginning of the month,” said Jeane. “The trick is to keep people thinking about it. It is easy to slip back into old patterns and forget what is going on.”
The Water Agency wanted to set allocations for its major contractors, which include the cities of Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Windsor and Sonoma and the Valley of the Moon, North Marin and Marin Municipal water districts.
“Providing an individual target may make it easier for them implementing their ordinances and doing what they need to do,” Jeane said.
The allocations formula put forth by the Water Agency would take into account water conservation programs already in place and are not 15 percent across-the-board decreases.
The Water Agency can impose its allocation plan, but Jeane said that it won’t as long as the target is met, at the request of contractors.
The contractors’ Technical Advisory Committee will meet Aug. 6 to come up with a proposal for the Water Agency, Kumar said.
“Their intent is to not actually assign individual numbers, but to continue to do what they are doing right now, work cooperatively, meeting frequently to monitor what is going on,” Jeane said. “And if it looks like it is not working, we may have to allocate at that point.”
The Water Agency won’t know how each individual contractor did in July until Aug. 1, after it has read all of the meters, said Jay Jasperse, the Water Agency’s deputy chief engineer.
Preliminary readings by some contractors indicate that Petaluma and the North Marin Water District have cut back about 19 percent, Jasperse said.
Stopping Global Warming and Saving the Eel River
By David Keller, FOER Bay Area Director
Eel River Reporter
Global climate changes are on the way. Our efforts to protect and restore the Eel River are part of a comprehensive strategy to stave off these changes. Not surprisingly, when you take care of one facet of our jeweled planet, you take care of other facets.
We’ve all seen the predictions for temperature and sea level increases, changes in rainfall and snowfall patterns, increased acidic oceans and rain, and changes in drought and storm frequencies which have been substantiated over and over again, despite massive political interference and corporate denial of scientific evidence and modeling. These impacts will bring many changes to the North Coast of California.
While we don’t know exactly how these changes will play out, we know they are serious and significant. It is imperative for us to work to reduce the causes of these changes, particularly reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions stemming from the use of fossil fuels and deforestation.
This strategy also involves reducing water and electrical demands which produce CO2. Our work for the Eel River dovetails with work being done around the globe. We can make a difference, starting right at home.
Transfer of Waters, Transfer of Wealth: The Bank of Water is officially overdrawn.
As the North Bay region has grown in population since WWII, the demands on water supplies have grown tremendously. Groundwater is now overdrafted, with more and more wells going to deeper depths to get municipal, residential and agricultural supplies. The Russian River is the source of most of the surface water supplies for Sonoma County and parts of Mendocino and Marin Counties, and according to the State Water Resources Control Board, it is “over appropriated.” That means that there are too many legal and illegal pumps sucking water out of the river, tributaries and its aquifer, leaving too little water for salmon, steelhead and other public trust uses.
And of course, the troubled Eel River’s fate has been hanging by a thread at the Potter Valley Project, owned by PGE as a small, antiquated hydropower plant, yet operated as a water transfer facility into the Russian River and Lake Mendocino. Not enough cold water for salmonids stays in the Eel River, but instead, just the right amount of warm water for the voracious predator pikeminnow.
Up until very recently, the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), the largest single water rights holder on the Russian River, played on an old fear that their water contractors’ consumers would run short if the transfer of water from the Eel River to supplement the Russian River flows (via Lake Mendocino) stopped.
During the past year, FOER staff pressed SCWA’s general manager (Randy Poole), and he finally acknowledged in public meetings that, the Eel River’s water transferred through the Potter Valley Project “is not necessary to supply SCWA customers.”
SCWA will have to officially address these issues in their forthcoming Draft Environmental Impact Report for their Water Supply, Transmission and Reliability Project (system expansion), due late next year.
The idea that Sonoma County needs Eel River water persisted as a 60 year-old urban legend. SCWA and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors have now changed their story, and claim that the transferred Eel River water is needed for restoration efforts of endangered salmonids in the Russian River! Apparently the needs of fish and wildlife of the Eel River, as well as the needs for that water by people who live, work and recreate in upper Mendocino, Lake, Trinity and Humboldt counties, is inconsequential to them.
Connecting the Dots, Ending Fear, and Righting the Ship
Approximately 25% of our electrical use in California is used to move water around: collect and store it, pump and treat it, use water in appliances and industrial processes, collect, treat and dispose of wastewater. We also heat and cool water. If we use less water, we use less energy. If we use less energy, we reduce GHG emissions significantly.
So how does this affect our Eel River’s fate?
Marin and Sonoma County are beginning to enter a path where water users, ratepayers, engineers, water agencies and elected officials understand that they can reduce water demands substantially, save ratepayers money in reduced water, wastewater and electrical bills, and reduce GHG. Water users (residential, commercial, industrial and institutional) can significantly reduce their demand through the use of improved practices, appliances and machinery, as well as reducing summer landscaping irrigation. When these programs are properly designed and accounted for, the savings from lowered water and electrical bills exceeds the costs of changing the appliances, devices and machinery to much more efficient ones.
When people are asked if they would be willing to cut back on water and energy usage to benefit our environment and reduce the impacts of global warming, most people will agree strongly. However, when told that under current practices that if they save water through conservation, it will not be left in rivers and groundwater aquifers to help the environment, but instead just be pumped and sold for more development, people get angry and frustrated.
Water users and policy makers are beginning to be free of the fear of ending Eel River diversions to the Russian River. They are beginning to understand that their conservation practices should have a positive impact in our environment. Improving watershed management, ending gravel mining of the Russian River’s incredible free water storage and filtration system, better forestry and farming practices, improvements to groundwater recharge and ending overdrafts, combined with substantial water and energy efficiency programs, will allow us to move to recovery of these river systems. If we are smart, and think long term, we can have healthy watersheds for generations to come.
If people, businesses, agriculture and governments work diligently to reduce water and electrical demands, the perceived ‘needs’ for continued diversions will no longer be driving water politics as strongly. As the diminished fears combine with a dedication to helping our environment, the ability to get PGE and other stakeholders to change their practices will increase. As the State’s Decision 1610 (regulating discharge flows from Lake Mendocino to the Russian River to serve fishery needs) is reopened and recalculated, there may well be less political pressure to continue the diversions.
The new Sonoma County Draft General Plan 2020 and Draft EIR (http://www.sonomacounty.org/prmd/gp2020/index.html ) explicitly state that there is not sufficient water for the planned 20 year growth anticipated in the county. Petaluma is already working to adopt and implement new water conservation, reuse and efficiencies so that it will not need more water than it is using now to meet its projected growth for the next 20 years, with new developers paying for the improvements to get water for their projects. (http://cityofpetaluma.net/genplan/deir/deir.pdf ) Chapter 3.5, pg 3.5-19+) Marin Municipal Water District has already kept its usage level over the past 10 years, and is pursuing even greater efficiency measures as well as a back up desalination project feasibility for 2nd year drought. Other cities and regions are recognizing that they must use much more stringent and effective water saving strategies and programs than they have before.
All Sonoma County cities have adopted a target to reduce GHG emissions by 25% below 1990 levels (see, http://www.climateprotectioncampaign.org/). This includes reduced energy and water usage by cities and businesses.
We can, and we must change our practices. When we care for our earth and children and work to control climate changes, whether we just want reduced utility bills, or whether we are working locally and regionally to restore our Eel River and its watershed, we are all pulling in the same direction. With this effort, with determination and perseverance, we will succeed. This is the right thing to do.