With state and regional declarations of a drought emergency in Sonoma County, the City of Cotati voted to enact the first voluntary stage of its Water Shortage Contingency Plan at its meeting Tuesday. Cotati is one of nine Sonoma County cities enacting the voluntary reductions per Sonoma Water’s request.
Director of Public Works and Engineering Craig Scott explained that the city will call for a 20-percent reduction in water usage across the board from customers.
“The region is experiencing a historical drought,” Scott said.
According to the staff report, the City of Cotati owns and operates the public water system serving residents, which is supplied by city-owned wells and two Sonoma Water reservoirs within the Russia River Watershed (Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino). The watershed and
thus the regional water supply depend on rainfall and groundwater, unlike many parts of California which get water from snowmelt.
The region faced extremely low rainfall this year, exacerbating existing water shortages from the critically low rainfall in 2019.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties April 21 while at Lake Mendocino, which was at 43-percent capacity at the time.
“As a region we are experiencing a severe multi-year drought, and rainfall and reservoir storage are at historic lows for this time of year,” the Sonoma Water website reads. “Sonoma Water encourages our community to make changes to everyday habits by eliminating water waste and reducing water usage by 20 percent. Every drop saved helps maintain water flows in the Russian River and preserves our water supply.”
While the City of Cotati is right on the regional average in terms of water consumption, consuming about 113 gallons of water per day per resident, and is well below the state goals of under 129 gallons per day, City staff expect mandatory restrictions to be imposed on Sonoma Water between July and November this year.
If and when restrictions become mandatory, Sonoma Water will incur penalties if reduction goals aren’t met. Any penalties will then be reflected in higher prices for customers in cities that fail to make reductions compared to 2020 levels.
Sonoma Water has petitioned the state to reduce flows into the Russian River from Lakes Sonoma and Mendocino in an attempt to preserve the reservoirs.
By relying on the city wells and making voluntary reductions, Scott said, the city can reach its 20-percent conservation goal.
The council also heard a presentation from the First Responders Resiliency organization, for possible future implementation for the city’s fire, police and emergency response technicians.
Susan Farren, of Rohnert Park, who worked as an EMT around Sonoma County and the Bay Area for decades, started the First Responders Resiliency organization in 2014 after suffering a health scare and becoming aware of the long-term health dangers associated with first responders.
Untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related conditions such as sleep deprivation contribute to increased divorce, addiction and suicide rates among first responders, Farren said. These psychological maladies are in addition to the physiological problems long-term stress can cause on the nervous system and general bodily health.
First Responders Resiliency, which works to prevent neurological, psychological and bodily harm among first responders through proactive trainings and immediate intervention following traumatic events, has recently trained over 200 personnel at the Santa Rosa Police Department and has signed a three-year contract to work with thousands of Cal-Fire first responders.
“At First Responders Resiliency, we get the first responders physically, mentally and emotionally well so that we can save the people who are saving us,” Farren said.