City workshop will review drought plans

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-#8230; 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.

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