Petaluma enters Stage 4 water emergency amid drought concerns

”I’m all for penalizing people who have a lush, green lawn right now,“ said Vice Mayor Brian Barnacle.|

The Petaluma City Council on Monday night declared a drought emergency, ratcheting up restrictions on residents’ water use in the city’s latest effort to conserve the region’s dwindling water resources.

In a 6-1 vote late Monday night, the council approved a resolution for the Stage 4 emergency. The move calls for a 30% mandatory water reduction goal for city water customers, up from the previous goal of 25%.

The prescribed actions are part of the City’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan, adopted five years ago in response to California’s rising drought concerns and decreasing groundwater supply.

The Stage 4 emergency in Petaluma prohibits the installation of new landscapes and the replanting of existing landscapes that require water, and it limits watering for existing landscaping to 4-8 a.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays.

City workers, however, may water trees Mondays through Fridays between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“On my street I literally have one neighbor who ripped out their lawn and put down bark, and I have another neighbor who put down a green lawn, all in the last three months,” Petaluma Vice mayor Brian Barnacle said. “And I love the signs around town, seeing the ‘Brown is the New Green’ and that sort of thing. I’m all for penalizing people who have a lush, green lawn right now.”

The revision will also prohibit customers from filling existing swimming pools and spas, unless they are part of public facilities.

Furthermore, street sweepers will be restricted to using recycled water only for weekly street cleaning.

Any customers in violation of the conservation rules will first be issued a notice, and could see fines of up to $1,000 if the violation is continued or not corrected.

The council’s decision also gives pre-authorization to City Manager Peggy Flynn to declare a a Stage 5 or Stage 6 emergency in future weeks, if necessary.

Amelia Parreira is a staff writer for the Argus Courier. She can be reached at or 707-521-5208.

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