Cotati OKs county goal to curtail water usage
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By Dave Williams  March 7, 2014 12:00 am

The City of Cotati is on board with the Sonoma County Water Agency’s call for a voluntary 20 percent reduction in water usage.

The council at its meeting on Feb. 25 unanimously approved a resolution to endorse and mirror the SCWA water advisory committee’s request. The SCWA’s request comes in response to California being in the third year of a drought, with 2013 being the worst on record. Lake Mendocino, which supplies the upper Russian River, is far below normal levels for this time of year. And the SCWA requested a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) from the State Water Resources Board to reduce the required instream flows in the Russian River upstream of Dry Creek.

The intent is to preserve as much storage in Lake Mendocino as possible, given the uncertain outlook for rain during the remainder of the winter. 

The cities receiving water from the Russian River below Dry Creek are supplied by Lake Sonoma. Lake Sonoma was constructed following the last severe drought in 1976-77. Lake Sonoma is below the normal storage level, but has sufficient water stored for most of 2014. However, the TAC have unanimously endorsed conservation early in the year, with the possibility of mandatory conservation if there is not significant rainfall by the end of winter. If Lake Sonoma drops to 100,000 acre-feet of storage, a series of progressively more severe mandatory water delivery reductions are an almost certainty.

The outlook for rainfall in 2014 is uncertain, and it is prudent to begin conserving water now to preserve the water that may be needed later, according to a Cotati city staff report.

For the water retailers and agricultural users upstream of Dry Creek, including areas north of Healdsburg (the conveyance for water stored in Lake Sonoma), there is a severe drought occurring with mandatory reductions in water use. 

Cotati has a water shortage contingency plan (Chapter 13.30 of the Cotati Municipal Code). Stage 1 is a 10 percent voluntary reduction in water use, with some requested measures customers can take to reduce water usage. This is in addition to the all year ban on “water wasting” non-essential uses. Stages 2 and 3 are 20 and 30 percent mandatory reductions, respectively.

Regionally, the joint Sonoma-Marin Water Saving Partnership, of which Cotati is a member, has embarked on a significant winter water conservation campaign. Though the call is for a 20-percent reduction, at the end of winter, further measures, including potentially mandatory measures, may be recommended.

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