Water Conservation, the Water Agency, and the General Plan

David  – and Bleys, Pete, Ann, Paul, Chris –

With the failure of the County to adequately address reductions of GHG over the lifespan of the new General Plan and FEIR (with PRMD staff stating, ‘we don’t have a good baseline’, ‘we don’t know how to do that’, ‘we’ll wait for Federal and State mandates and rules’, etc), your suggestion is very timely.

Given that state-wide, almost 20% of the energy in California is used to collect, treat, distribute, heat, cool, clean and dispose of water, knowing what the current baseline is for water-associated GHG emissions for each of the contractors would be a great start to figuring out what we can do next.  Unfortunately, for very parochial reasons, the major players of contractors so far aren’t interested in putting these kinds of facts in front of the public, ratepayers, and voters.

Ironically, SCWA staff has already released its own GHG emissions analysis for 2006 (sent earlier).  Yet county staff isn’t interested in doing that, nor are too many of the cities.

The information on water usage and conservation efforts by each of the contractors is already available to city, district and agency staff, but the decisionmakers are still unwilling to post it for the public and ratepayers.

Thanks to the PD for pursuing that first step.

I’m hoping that the PD will carry forward in their reporting in more detail on the real sources of Russian River water demand reductions: conservation? recycling? groundwater wells?  We know that SCWA has, in significant part, merely increased their pumping from the Santa Rosa plain, as has Rohnert Park, despite overdrafted basins.

Increased GHG emissions may result from that – it’s a good question for SCWA and the contractors’ WAC.

Ask your local councilmember and Supervisor for this, since so far, Petaluma is the only contractor asking for any contemporaneous information.



In addition, it would be instructive to get the energy use and corresponding GHG emissions of the water agency and contractors. This would give us a good data point on reduction in GHG emissions throughout both the Agency system and the contractor systems due to reduction in demand.

Dave Erickson

Dear all –

At yesterday’s Water Advisory Committee (WAC) [elected reps for each water contractor] and Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) [the system manager reps for each contractor], both groups refused to support Petaluma Mayor Pam Torliatt’s request for some of the information that appears, nevertheless, in today’s PD.

Reductions in Russian River water use:
Windsor:                 56.5%
Cotati:                   34.9%
North Marin:            23.9%
Petaluma:               17.4%
Valley of the Moon:  12.9%
Santa Rosa:             6.4%
Sonoma:                  5.5%
Marin Municipal:        3.9%
Rohnert Park:           3.4%
Source: SCWA

Pam Torliatt had requested last week that the contractors, thru the WAC, supply the following information in a spread sheet:
1- 2004 baseline demands system wide (SCWA Russian River diversions), and usage for each contractor, month by month [or, week by week]
2- current total usage by contractor, with the changes in percentages from 2004 [this may be what is in the PD table]
3- accounting for any demand reductions on the SCWA system (reductions in metered flows), by contractor, by:
a- conservation (how much of the demand reductions are actually due to conservation practices by each contractor and their ratepayers)
b- replacement of SCWA potable water demand by well pumping from ground water supplies (“Local production”)
c- replacement of demand by recycled water use.

After a discussion, WAC members voted to refuse to produce and release this information. Comments included:
– “We are concerned about how this information will used or misused.”
– “The State Board [SWRCB] only told SCWA to reduce diversions from the Russian River 15%. They didn’t tell anyone else what to do or how to do it.”
– “We are working cooperatively and voluntarily.  Let’s not get into pointing fingers.”
– “If we start down this road, we’ll be subject to Sec. 3.5 of the Water Agreement on allocation revisions during impaired water deliveries, and we don’t want to open that up.”

Voting against the proposal were elected reps from Santa Rosa (Susan Gorin), Rohnert Park (Jake Mackenzie), North Marin WD (Jack Baker), Cotati (Janet Orchard), Valley of the Moon (Sanford Smith), Sonoma (Stanley Cohen).  Instead, the TAC was asked to have a discussion about this at their Sept. 10 meeting.

Pam Torliatt and several public attendees (Brenda Adelman, Dawna Gallagher, and myself) argued that a rational water planning process and policies requires that this information be available to know how we’re doing in time to make course corrections, whether everyone is carrying their weight,  how the WAC intends to deal with higher demands when hot weather returns, that the public and ratepayers have a right to know what’s happening, whether reduced demands is really the use of pumped groundwater,  etc.

We don’t know if SCWA has ramped up their pumping of groundwater from the Santa Rosa Plain aquifer to offset Russian River pumping either.  It seems likely that Santa Rosa’s conservation efforts may not be yielding any significant results, as their reductions may be accounted for entirely  by increased well pumping.  Likewise for Rohnert Park’s numerous wells.

This vague and incomplete information means that the public has no idea if their conservation efforts are making any difference in several jurisdictions.

The WAC steadfastly refused to supply the additional information, despite being told by Pam Torliatt  and I that a Cal.Public Records Act request to each contractor would accomplish this if they didn’t want to provide the information voluntarily.

Randy Poole did reveal that several agricultural “surplus water customers” who are on the various pipelines still have not been cut off, and they are collectively using some 50 acre feet per month.  Several WAC members expressed surprise and dismay that SCWA hadn’t cut them off yet, as is required in the Water Agreement. In addition, Randy Poole did acknowledge that SCWA is still selling 7500 acre feet this year to the Redwood Valley Water District (Ukiah Valley) from SCWA’s permitted holdings in Lake Mendocino.  He did not describe any reductions in demands for that water.

I was pleased that the PD (Bleys Rose) produced the table above and the article below today.

Although very useful, the table still does not address the questions about how each contractor is reducing their water demands – conservation, well pumping, recycled water – all of which is critical to determining how all of us will fare in times of increased water demands.

I hope that the PD will follow up shortly with the rest of the story.

David Keller
Bay Area Director
Friends of the Eel River
Petaluma, CA 94952

Aug 7, 2007
Water conservation success varies widely by area
Windsor, Cotati, Petaluma lead in cutbacks, while Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park trail


Residents of Windsor, Petaluma and Cotati are doing a great job of reducing reliance on Russian River water, while people in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park fell well below the countywide average 12 percent decrease in use last month.

Water use statistics compiled by the Sonoma County Water Agency show that pleas for voluntary water conservation efforts were taken to heart by many residents as average daily use dropped from 228.7 acre-feet in July 2004 to 200.4 acre-feet last month.

July was the first month during which the Water Agency has been under a state Water Resources Control Board order to reduce Russian River withdrawals in order to save water in Lake Mendocino so there’s enough for the fall salmon run.

The statistics account for water measured at 150 metering stations used by nine municipalities that contract with the Water Agency to provide water to about 600,000 residents in Sonoma and northern Marin County.

Reductions in average daily water use range from highs of 57 percent in Windsor and 35 percent in Cotati to 6 percent in Santa Rosa and 3 percent in Rohnert Park, both of which use much more water than smaller cities. Only the Valley of the Moon Water District was close to the countywide average, with a 13 percent reduction during July.

Those measurements differ from the 17 percent water reduction that the Water Agency tallied at two stations on the Russian River as required by state water authorities who have ordered a 15 percent reduction in water drawn from the river.

The differences are attributed to a number of reasons, including meter error on both ends, water loss during transmission, leaks in the system and unaccounted-for water deliveries.

Russian River water use has been reduced by 17.1 percent as of Sunday, according to the latest measurements from the Water Agency. It had been reduced by 16.5 percent during the time that average daily uses for July were recorded.

Officials on the Water Advisory Committee, whose members represent Water Agency contractors, decided Monday that residents are responding so well to conservation pleas that they’ll tell county supervisors that they can achieve the state- mandated 15 percent reduction through October without resorting to allocations.

“They are no longer talking about specific allocations to each contractor because they decided they are doing a good job of achieving a 15 percent reduction without it,” said Pam Jeane, the Water Agency’s deputy director of operations. “If they start losing ground, they will revisit it.”
Jeane said decreases in average daily use give cities, which the agency calls contractors, an idea of how well their conservation efforts are working.

“It gives an indication of how, contractor by contractor, they are doing and it helps them focus on what they need to be doing,” Jeane said. “If they are not getting water savings, then they need to go after measures like the water wasters program in Santa Rosa.”

Officials said the Water Agency’s measurements on average daily use don’t include water drawn from city wells, so the numbers don’t provide a full picture of conservation efforts throughout Sonoma County.

In the middle of last month, Santa Rosa put into operation city wells that won’t begin showing an impact on Russian River water use until August’s average daily use is reported.

Glen Wright, Santa Rosa’s deputy director of water resources, has estimated that about two-thirds of the reduction in his city can be attributed to conservation and one-third to switching to its own wells.

Some contractors, such as Petaluma and Northern Marin, dramatically lowered their Russian River water use by using recycled wastewater on public golf courses. Windsor lowered its numbers by relying more on city wells, as well as its own conservation programs.

Don Seymour, a principal engineer at the Water Agency, said the order from the state Water Resources Board is concerned only with reducing the amount of water taken from the Russian River and not with how water users are lessening their reliance on it.

“It is interesting to look at the numbers and see how the cities stack up, but the bottom line is that they are all combining to save more than 15 percent,” Seymour said.

Reductions in Russian River water use:
Windsor:                 56.5%
Cotati:                   34.9%
North Marin:            23.9%
Petaluma:               17.4%
Valley of the Moon:  12.9%
Santa Rosa:             6.4%
Sonoma:                  5.5%
Marin Municipal:        3.9%
Rohnert Park:           3.4%
Source: SCWA