Forum on drought, groundwater strategies

Half-empty-half-full-sign-7-620x350Supervisor Susan Gorin, who represents the Sonoma Valley and also serves as director of the Sonoma County Water Agency, will hold a public meeting March 31 on the state of the Valley water supply.

The forum will be held at Sonoma’s Vintage House, 264 First St. E. from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The meeting, co-sponsored by the Sonoma County Water Agency and the Sonoma Valley Basin Advisory Panel, is the first in a series of drought town hall meetings planned throughout the county this spring.

“With the ongoing drought,” Gprin said, “Sonoma Valley citizens need to come together to find out more about our shared water supply, get questions answered, learn what agencies are doing to address these critical needs, and conserve water immediately in our daily lives.”

Several dry years combined with the driest year of record in 2013 have culminated in drought conditions across the region. Sonoma Valley currently meets its water needs through a combination of groundwater and Russian River water. The county water agency supplies Russian River water to fulfill 95 percent of the City of Sonoma’s water demand, and 85 percent of the Valley of the Moon Water District’s demand.

Water from the Russian River must travel over 30 miles to reach the Sonoma Valley, and the supply has been impacted by requirements to protect endangered fish and environmental needs.

As for groundwater sources, technical studies and monitoring of the Sonoma Valley basin have found long-term declining groundwater levels, relatively low aquifer yield and saline intrusion in the south side of the Valley.

The Valley contains two large depressions of groundwater in deep wells where more water has been pumped than has recharged. Over the past five years, monitoring has shown that these depressions have worsened. The areas experiencing these depressions (El Verano and southeast of Sonoma city limits) contain multiple uses, such as rural, residential and agricultural wells.

“Across California, groundwater basins are showing signs of decline, exacerbated by this year’s dry conditions, “said Tito Sasaki, President of the North Bay Agriculture Alliance and Basin Advisory Panel member. “Sonoma Valley is no exception – we’ve continued to see groundwater declines over the last decade or more.”

Additional topics of the March 31 meeting include strategies to address the water supply needs of Sonoma Valley, including stormwater management, groundwater recharge, groundwater banking of imported winter surplus water, increased use of recycled water, and increased water conservation efforts.

“These issues affect all water users, whether urban, residential, business, or agricultural,” Gorin said.

Representatives from the Sonoma County Water Agency, Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD), the City of Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon Water District, the Sonoma Resource Conservation District, North Bay Agriculture Alliance, and the Basin Advisory Panel will be in attendance to answer water supply questions.

An additional meeting on Sonoma Valley groundwater will be held in Kenwood on April 8, 6 p.m. at the Kenwood Fire Station.


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