Editor: Conserving water and other resources always has to be done to benefit not only ourselves but others, the environment and the future. We can’t control all outcomes but we can do the right thing now. Water we save has to come under the planning rubric of a balanced triple bottom line where social equity, environmental sustainability and economic regeneration are all considered in proportion; that’s to say conserved water has to get used and divided up fairly. Without a sense of fairness, conservation buy-in by different stakeholders will be hard to come by.
The valley has two distinct sources of water. One is water from the Russian River via the Sonoma County Water Agency to the city of Sonoma and the Valley of the Moon Water District. Two is groundwater from private wells. Residential target usage and conservation goals should be the same for both sources of water. The big difference is SCWA water is regulated and groundwater is not. The potential accountability for use or lack thereof is a pertinent undetermined factor in valley water use, fairness and conservation.
Sonoma County average water use is 119 gallons per person per day. Of these 119 gallons, 58 gallons go for irrigation. This leaves 61 gallons for average county in-house use per person per day. Cutting out all irrigation and saving 20% on inside house use will bring daily per capita consumption to 40 to 50 gallons a day. If you use 20 gallons a day total that will make you equal to someone in the West Bank. If you use 79 gallons a day total you will be equal to someone from East Palo Alto.
40 to 50 gallons a day per person per day in house use is a good start for the Russian River and valley groundwater residential component of a valley-wide team effort. Limiting or eliminating irrigation saves the most.
Agriculture and existing rural residential groundwater water users will have to show what their contribution will be to a valley-wide team effort. These folks are in charge of reversing groundwater depletion and saltwater intrusion, one way or another they’ve got to get it done.
All these cumulative savings and conservation efforts should first be banked to restore environmental water and adequate stream flows to ensure ecological health of the valley watershed. The valley watershed is what will carry future stakeholders. Only after a healthy watershed is achieved should the city or county allow new well permits, developments or vineyards.
The city and county can also go incrementally to disincentivize high residential water use and high aggregate use by small hobby vineyards: require construction and zoning codes that outlaw new pools and turf, mandate xeriscape on new projects, prohibit private wells if on SCWA water and require built-in grey water landscape irrigation.