Water 101 – No Matter Where it Comes From, It is a Limited Resource

Press Democrat Editorial – Aug 15, 2007

Conserve — To keep from being damaged, lost or wasted; save. — Webster’s New World College Dictionary

The above definition is included for the water system operators in Sonoma County. Apparently, these folks have forgotten, or perhaps never learned, that conservation is fundamentally different than replacement.

Recently, water operators reported that in July, Russian River water use dropped by 19 percent, meeting a state-imposed 15-percent conservation mandate.

But an investigation by Staff Writer Bleys Rose found that only some of the savings came from conservation efforts. The remainder came by replacing river water with water pumped from city and Sonoma County Water Agency wells.

In Santa Rosa, the largest water user in the system, conservation amounted to about 10.4 percent. The city was able to meet the 15 percent mandate by pumping from two wells on Farmers Lane. Other cities adopted similar strategies.

There are a couple of problems with this approach.

First, it’s a short term solution for what is a long-term problem.

This year, the reductions are needed to address low levels of water in Lake Mendocino. Next year, fishery officials may demand a reduction in the amount of water being released from Lake Sonoma into Dry Creek. Or, global warming could reduce spring rain and cause longer periods of hot weather during the summer.

In other words, for a variety of reasons, residents need to make conservation part of their lifestyle.

Second, pumping could deplete the aquifers. This means the well water may not be available when it’s needed in a severe drought. It also means that residential wells in the same aquifers may go dry.

Whether it comes from the river, the ground or is recycled, water is a finite resource. It is time for a comprehensive management plan that accounts for all Sonoma County water — regardless of its source.

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