Santa Rosa, Biggest City North of the Gate to Order Mandatory Water Cutbacks

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With the 20% mandatory reductions to be ordered Tuesday, Santa Rosa joins cities Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Sonoma across Sonoma County in ordering residents to do more to reduce water consumption.


Most of Sonoma County has recorded less than half of average rainfall over the past two years. Santa Rosa, which averages over 32 inches of rain a year, has a two year precipitation deficit of more than 35 inches. The capture of surface water, primarily in Lake Sonoma, supplies 600 thousand residential customers from central Marin County through Sonoma County. Lake Mendocino supplies cities and rural customers in northern Sonoma County, including residents of Cloverdale and Healdsburg.


Santa Rosa, like many cities, has many levels of drought restrictions. In the current phase (3 of  the city is asking for an aggregate reduction in water use from last year’s totals. Like many other cities, washing of hard surfaces like concrete is prohibited as well as outdoor sprinkler and irrigation use outside of the hours of 8PM to 6AM. In addition, residents are being asked to check all appliances, sprinklers, faucets and other devices for leaks, and commercial businesses are under a variety of new restrictions. These include requiring restaurants to provide drinking water only upon request, and hotels to end routine laundering of linens for guests unless requested.


Like in other cities, although fines are authorized, they will not likely be imposed for now. Instead city officials say they will work with violators to fix problems. There will be city patrols watching for signs of violations. At this stage of water restrictions no excess usage fee is being charged to residential or commercial customers but that could change if the city ramps up its restrictions in the coming months. In addition, a fee to help Sonoma County Water Agency recover funds lost through lower water deliveries is not being assessed for now.


Sonoma County residents have already reduced consumption 20-30 percent in the past decade through conservation measures, like installing drought tolerant landscaping. This reduction of 20% (up to 40% in Healdsburg) would be in addition to past conservation efforts.


The Sonoma County Water Agency is confident it will have enough supply to weather the current year, but historically low reservoir levels have brought concern about the upcoming 2021-2022 water year. Current supplies stand at 53% of capacity in Lake Sonoma and 36% of the desired water supply target in Lake Mendocino. (Image 1) On July 1st, a dramatic reduction of water releases from Lake Sonoma into Dry Creek (and ultimately the Russian River) will begin, with the goal of keeping more water in storage. This reduction was ordered by the state after a request from Sonoma Water. Pumping from groundwater wells along the river in the Mirabel area (the supply source for most Sonoma County users) will also be reduced by 20%.


Across Sonoma County and most of California, escalating water restrictions will come if fall and winter rains do not arrive on time, or if ordered by the state. Because of different water sources, some areas of California have instituted mandatory restrictions, while others have not as yet.


The city of Santa Rosa has launched a webpage allowing customers to track their water usage, and perhaps find and fix issues. The link is

More on the city’s restrictions, including information on resources and rebates designed to reduce water use can be found here.

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