Due to the January rain storms, Lake Mendocino has reached its winter storage target. This is great news for the reservoirs recovering after reaching historically low levels. Sonoma County, along with the rest of California, still remains in drought conditions though and State mandates for Stage 2 (20%) water conservation will continue into 2023. It is critical for all of us to work together, as a community, to save water and meet our water conservation goals. Below are common questions and responses related to water supply and conservation. (Update as of March 2, 2023: Sonoma County is in abnormally dry conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. State-wide emergency drought regulations remain in effect.)
If you have other questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-431-3122.
Thank you for your continued efforts to save water during the ongoing drought!
Photo: US Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Mendocino
What are the water restrictions currently in place?
The City is currently in Stage 2 water restrictions with the goal of reducing usage by 20% (compared to 2017-2019 average).
Some restrictions include the following:
- Irrigation limited to three days per week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday during early morning (before 7am) and evening hours (after 8pm) only. This applies to lawns, plants, vegetable gardens, and trees.
- No washing of sidewalks, driveways, or other similar hardscapes
- Refilling of a swimming pool, except when topping off to prevent damage to pump and filter equipment, is not allowed. New pools must obtain water from a source other than the City’s potable water system.
- Construction must use recycled water for dust control and other construction purposes
- Fix leaks within 72 hours
View the full list of water restrictions here. *The City adopted the 6 stages of water conservation based on the recommendations within the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan available here.
What are the state-wide water restrictions?
In January 2022, the State Water Board adopted the prohibited wasteful water uses emergency regulation. The regulation was re-adopted in December 2022, and will remain in effect for one year, unless the State Water Board modifies it, readopts it, or ends it before then. Details on the Water Conservation Emergency Regulations are available here.
In June 2022, the State Water Resources Control Board also adopted an emergency water conservation regulations that restricts commercial, industrial, and institutional sites from irrigating ornamental lawns (“non-functional turf”) with potable water. The restriction also extends to ornamental lawns in common-area landscapes owned by homeowners associations. Non-functional turf is defined as, “Turf that is solely ornamental and not regularly used for human recreational purposes or for civic or community events.”
Weekly updates on state-wide drought conditions by county are available here.
What resources are available to help save water?
Here are some ways to help you save water:
- Set up a rainwater capture system to capture rain and use later in the summer for your outdoor plants. Rebates of $0.50 per gallon of storage available.
- Replace your existing lawn with a drought-tolerant landscape that uses less water. Rebates of $1.00 per square foot are available to Healdsburg water customers.
- Replace your indoor appliances with more efficient models. Rebates of $75 for front-loading Energy Star® Most Efficient clothes washers and $110 for WaterSense toilets with 0.8 gallons per flush or less.
- FREE: Check out the Do-It-Yourself Home Energy and Water Savings Toolkit from the Library.
Healdsburg is also part of the Sonoma Marin Saving Water Partnership, which has many programs and resources available here.
Is the City government subject to the same restrictions?
Yes, the City has taken measures to reduce water consumption and exceeded the overall 20% target last year.
Are business and tourists required to reduce water usage?
Yes, everyone needs to reduce water usage. As a whole community, our water consumption was approximately 30% less last summer compared to the 2017-2019 average.
What share of our water usage comes from hotels and restaurants?
Hotels and restaurants make up about 7-8% of Healdsburg water usage.
How does Healdsburg compare to other cities when it comes to water efficiency?
Historically, Healdsburg used about 50% more water per capita than other cities in the County prior to the 2021 drought. While consumption was higher than other cities in the region before the drought, Healdsburg residents have made substantial reductions in their water usage during the drought. The Pacific Institute has put together a tool to look at water consumption in different cities over time here.
Is recycled water still available?
Yes! Recycled water is available for self-haul or you have the option to contract directly with water haulers. More information is available here.
For water delivery, the City recommends calling a few water haulers to confirm pricing, which seems to range from $60 to $100 per delivery. The costs are for filling the tanker and driving to the delivery site; recycled water is provided by the City at the fill stations at no cost. Since most tankers hold at least 2,000 gallons, close by neighbors could coordinate to share water from one truck and split the costs of the delivery.
What steps is the City of Healdsburg taking to diversify our water supply and make us more resilient for future droughts?
Healdsburg currently gets about 80% of our water supply from the upper Russian River, making us particularly vulnerable to supply shortages in Lake Mendocino. Approximately 20% of the City’s water supply is from Dry Creek derived from Lake Sonoma. With that in mind we have been working on the following projects:
Aquifer Storage and Recovery Wells (Estimated Cost: $8.5 million)
Aquifer storage and recovery wells will allow the City to augment its surface water supplies with groundwater in a sustainable manner.
- This process increases water supply by approximately 60 million gallons per year, or 9% of current demand.
- The feasibility study is complete, and next steps are being outlined.
- Since this is an expensive undertaking, the City has applied for funding from FEMA and the State and is awaiting a response. The expected response time for funding is about 1.5 to 2 years. The project is expected to take approximately 2 to 3 years to complete once funded.
Municipal Recycled Water Pipeline (Estimated Cost: $14 million)
The City received a grant award of $7.1 million from the State of California to fund approximately half of the recycled water pipeline infrastructure planned.
- The pipeline project which is funded will serve municipal turf areas and can offset demand of potable water by approximately 25 million gallons per year, or about 4% of current demand.
- The City has applied for another State grant, which will offset an additional approximately 8 million gallons of potable water usage per year. This would increase the total potable water offset to 33 million gallons per year, or about 5% of current demand. We are still waiting for a response to our application.
- The pipeline projects will add approximately 1.6 miles (currently funded) and 2.7 miles (awaiting funding) to our recycled water distribution network.
- Recycled water deliveries for municipal turf areas reduce demand of potable water sourced from the surface water rights and increase water available for storage at Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma.
- The pipeline will provide recycled water to City parks, golf course, cemetery and some public schools facilities.
Dry Creek Water Right Amendment (Estimated Cost: $840,000)
The City derives approximately 80% of its water from surface rights on the Russian River and 20% from Dry Creek. However, the water supply volume for the Russian River (Lake Mendocino) is approximately 70,000 acre-feet, while the water supply volume for Dry Creek (Lake Sonoma) is approximately 240,000 acre feet. Increasing the water rights from Dry Creek is advantageous to the City’s water supply resilience due to the greater volume in Lake Sonoma.
- The current water right limits the City to 1 cubic foot per second (about 450 gallons per minute) from April through October. The water right revision would allow 2.6 cubic feet per second (about 1,170 gallons per minute) year-round. The State is in the process of reviewing the City’s water right amendment. The time frame for the State to complete the review has not been established.
- Infrastructure at the Dry Creek Water Treatment Plant will need to be improved to accommodate the change in flow. The improvements are under design. The funding source for the improvements has not been established.
How is the City managing water supply with new building and development?
The City of Healdsburg’s prudent and cost-effective long-term water supply planning means that occurrences of single and multiple dry years do not automatically mean water supply capacity is limited for planned development. The Water Shortage Contingency Plan available here outlines how the city will respond to a reduction in water supply. Restrictions on new development can be activated if the city experiences a water shortage of 50% or greater. In Stage 5 water restrictions, new construction must offset new demand by a ratio of one to one prior to receiving a temporary or permanent certificate of occupancy. In Stage 6 (the highest stage), new construction must offset new demand by a ratio of two to one prior to receiving a temporary or permanent certificate of occupancy. Connection of affordable housing is exempt from these requirements. Healdsburg has also adopted policies and programs to ensure new development is built to higher efficiency standards than in the past, such as the latest State building code requirements and the Water Efficient Landscape ordinance.
Healdsburg also prepares a long-range water supply plan every five years, which takes into account population, water supply, drought risk, and more. The most recent plan is the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) available here. An important factor to consider in planning is ensuring there is enough housing for everyone to live affordably. The State has allocated each city a number of housing units they are required to create to meet increasing housing demand, known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation. Through the Urban Water Management Plan, Water Shortage Contingency Plan, and planned water supply projects, the City is able to manage water supply for existing and new developments.
Where can I find updates on Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma’s water supplies?
Sonoma Water provides weekly updates on Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma. View the current water supply levels here.
California Water Watch also provides updates on the Russian River Watershed here.