Groundwater on tap at management forum slated for RP
Future of Santa Rosa Plain will be one topic discussed
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By The Community Voice  May 2, 2014 12:00 am

A series of public forums will be held this spring to discuss progress on the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Management Plan (Plan). These meetings will also include an opportunity to see information developed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on groundwater in the Santa Rosa Plain that could help shape the future of water management in Sonoma County.

Rohnert Park-Cotati will host a meeting on May 21 in the Rohnert Park City Hall Chambers from 6-8 p.m. RP City Hall is located at 130 Avram Ave.

The plan is being developed by a balanced group of stakeholders called the Santa Rosa Plain Basin Advisory Panel (BAP). The goal of the plan is to locally manage and protect groundwater resources through non-regulatory measures to support all beneficial uses, including human, agriculture and ecosystem in an environmentally sound, economical and equitable manner.

“Now is the time to hear from the people that use and rely on groundwater every day in the Santa Rosa Plain,” added Water Agency Director Shirlee Zane. “And that doesn’t just mean well owners – our underground water system is connected to the surface water. Everyone has a seat at this table. These meetings are a great opportunity to find out more about our shared water supply and ask questions.”

The Santa Rosa Plain Watershed is home to approximately half of the population of Sonoma County, including Cotati, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Windsor and unincorporated areas of Sonoma County.

“In the Santa Rosa Plain, there are 12,000 groundwater wells and many cities also use groundwater wells that supply thousands of people,” said Tito Sasaki, President of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. “Farmers, families, businesses and ecosystems depend on groundwater for drinking water, irrigation and job creation. We all need to work together to protect our precious groundwater.”

 “We need to understand more about our groundwater to know how changes will affect our future well reliability. Then we must plan to respect this finite resource,” said Santa Rosa well owner Dawna Gallagher.

These forums will provide a brief look at what is being considered in the Groundwater Management Plan, including possible management components, monitoring programs and integrated water management programs. A cutting-edge Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Model, developed by the USGS, will also be described at the meetings. The model is a coupled surface water and groundwater flow model, which helps predict trends in groundwater levels over a period of time based on changing water use and weather patterns. This will become an essential planning tool to sustainably manage groundwater supplies.

 “The more we understand how much water is being used, the more we can make better voluntary decisions on how much water we should sustainably use or conserve to keep our resource protected,” said Elizabeth Cargay, a Foothills of Windsor Homeowners Association well owner.

“Russian River area tree ring studies show that the area experienced long droughts between the years 1500 and 1800 A.D. Projected effects of climate change include longer and drier summers and more variable rainfall than current residents or their ancestors have known,” said Jane Nielson of the Sonoma County Water Coalition. “California’s rainfall seems to be less reliable than it was during years of rapid population growth. After a number of dry intervals, we must accept that droughts are in our future and plan for them.”

The model is part of a larger seven-year study that was conducted by the USGS in cooperation with local stakeholders to examine the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Basin. Additional funding and support for the study was provided by the Sonoma County Water Agency, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Windsor, California American Water and the County of Sonoma. Moving forward, funding for implementation of the plan would likely come from those same entities, in addition to the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, United Winegrowers, and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

Other meetings are scheduled for: Sebastopol Community Center, May 12, 6-8 p.m., 390 Morris St., Sebastopol; Windsor Library Forum Hall, May 14, 6-8 p.m., 9291 Old Redwood Hwy., Windsor; and Santa Rosa Utilities Field Office, May 28, 6-8 p.m., 35 Stony Point Rd., Santa Rosa. 

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