Letter to Editor Responding to Press Democrat

Hi Alan–

Yup, that article (Dryness Triggers Water Worries from Press Democrat) had many distortions! My aim was to get at the "single resource" theme in a few punchy sentences. Wonder if they’ll publish it.


I think the numbers they now show indicate only a 8% reduction in use – or
– thereabouts

Dear Editor,
Your May 1st article, "Dryness Triggers Water Worries" confusingly stated that Sonoma County Water Agency "customers" (cities and water districts) responded to last year’s 15 percent mandated reduction in water usage by cutting back 21 percent. But only a few lines later it (correctly) noted that the reduction was achieved in part "by municipalities increasing reliance on well water." In other words, some municipalities may NOT have reduced water use, but instead supplied the usual water demand from groundwater. I hope that future articles state the facts more clearly so that readers understand the 2007 mandate and potential 2008 reduction refer to reductions in the amount of water extracted from the Russian River. Whether SCWA’s customers actually reduce water use generally is left to them.

Clear writing about this point is important. Confusing the amount of river water withdrawals with water usage obscures a very basic problem for both water suppliers and private well owners. Contrary to legal doctrines, nature does not separate a watershed’s river water and groundwater into different containers. Both State and Federal publications emphasize that river water and groundwater are a single resource. Groundwater flows from aquifers into river beds, and vice versa. Groundwater overpumping can cause river water to flow into a depleted aquifer, lowering river flows. Substituting groundwater for river water may fit California’s legal compartments, but ignoring nature’s laws will only worsen Sonoma County’s water problems.

Jane Nielson, Ph.D. (Geologist) Sebastopol Water Information Group