City workshop will review drought plans
Published: Friday, January 10, 2014 at 12:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 10, 2014 at 12:44 p.m.
While no state or county action has been called, the City of Petaluma is preparing for what could happen if drought conditions continue. The city will host a workshop to look at issues of water conservation on Monday, Jan. 13, at 6 p.m. in the council chambers.
“You bet we’re concerned,” said Public Works Director Dan St. John of the drought. “We began the process of contingency planning… We can’t wait until April to go out and do the things we need to do to get ready.”
St. John said his office has spent about a month looking into how the city would respond in the face of a prolonged drought, and the workshop will be a chance to inform the Petaluma City Council and the public on what to expect.
The city contracts with the Sonoma County Water Agency for its water needs, which average 7.9 million gallons a day. That average ranges from about 5 million gallons a day in the winter, to 11.4 million gallons a day in the summer months, St. John said. In the event of a significant drought, the agency does have the option of reducing the amount of water Petaluma receives.
“The situation right now is severe, but changeable,” said Cordell Stillman, chief engineer of the Sonoma County Water Agency, explaining that significant rain in the coming months would end the drought. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, we’re just hoping for the best but planning for the worst.”
As part of its contract with the agency, the city is supposed to be able to provide 40 percent of its “average daily water needs” from local source in the event of an emergency, which in Petaluma means the city’s nine wells and the water produced at the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility for irrigation. However, Petaluma’s resources do not produce the 3.16 million gallons needed to cover 40 percent of the city’s average daily water needs.
“Right now, we’re advertising that we have about 1 million gallons a day,” St. John said of the local sources. He explained that private well owners are impacted when the city pulls from the aqueduct, making it a less-than-ideal option.
“We need to emphasize that we won’t do this in normal years,” he added.
Brad Sherwood, spokesman for the water agency, said the requirement that a city be able to provide 40 percent of its own water was more of a “goal” and there is no penalty if a city doesn’t have the resources to cover its local need. However, it could put Petaluma in a pinch if the drought conditions persist to the point that the agency can’t provide enough water.
In 2011, the city created a water shortage contingency plan that looks at four stages of conservation based on the supplies available. St. John said he is considering asking the council to implement the first stage at the Jan. 13 meeting, which calls for voluntary conservation to reduce personal water use by 15 percent. If the council agreed, the city would launch an educational campaign encouraging the 60,000 Petaluma residents who rely on city water to cut back, which St. John said has been successful in the past.
“People in Petaluma are the best — they really understand the importance of water conservation,” he said.
The city is also working to expand the use of recycled water. The Ellis Creek plant can produce millions of gallons a year of tertiary treated water, suitable for irrigation at parks, golf courses and agricultural fields. The city is already using it to water recreational areas like Prince Park and the Petaluma airport, and has plans to bring it to Casa Grande High School this year. The city is also working to attract more commercial users as well.
“The big push we’re making is to increase the amount of recycled water used in the city,” St. John said.
The city also hosts a multitude of conservation programs, including providing free mulch to those who remove their lawns; free water audits to show opportunities for conservation; and programs for free or reduced low-flow toilets and showerheads.
Sherwood said there are basic steps a family can take to conserve, most of which deal with outdoor water. He said right now, it’s best not to turn on the hose outside, for any reason.
“Turn all your water off outside,” he said. “It’s cool to have a dirty car. It shows you’re doing your part to stave off the drought.”
Learn more water conservation tips at cityofpetaluma.net/wrcd.
(Contact Emily Charrier at Emily.charrier@ar guscourier.com)
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
You'll find a number of new technology features available from this site. With personalized news sent straight to your mobile device.
post your stuff
Petaluma360.com is here for you to post your comments, photos, news and events with the community. Post it now!
Have something to say? Join the conversation!
Upload your photos of community events, holidays, pets, cute kids, breaking news and more, and vote for your favorites!
Submit your area events to encourage others in your community to attend.