Due to the winter rainstorms, Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma exceeded their storage targets. This is great news for the reservoirs recovering after reaching historically low levels. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Sonoma County is no longer considered in drought conditions; and Governor Newsom lifted most state-wide emergency drought regulations on March 24, 2023.
Following this, the City of Healdsburg also lifted its water restrictions by Council approval on April 3, 2023. It is still always important to avoid water waste and certain wasteful water activities are still prohibited state-wide.
(Photo: US Army Corps of Engineers Lake Mendocino)
Conservation will continue to be important to help the groundwater aquifers recover as well. Recent years have shown how we can work together as a community to conserve water, which will be important as we prepare and become more resilient for the next drought. We are grateful for the much-needed rain. And, thank you to the community for your water conservation efforts!
Lake Sonoma, February 2023 (Photo: Sonoma Water)
Lake Sonoma, November 2022 (Photo: Sonoma Water)
What are the water restrictions currently in place?
The City has lifted its local water restrictions. State-wide regulations still prohibit certain wasteful water activities here.
It is always important to avoid water waste and prepare for the next drought. Find out more about resources to conserve water at www.smartlivinghealdsburg.org.
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. Prohibited wasteful water activities include:
- Outdoor watering that lets water run onto sidewalks and other areas (except incidental runoff)
- Washing vehicles without an automatic shutoff nozzle
- Washing hard surfaces like driveways or sidewalks that do not absorb water
- Street cleaning or construction site preparation with potable water
- Filling decorative fountains, lakes, or ponds without a recirculation pump
- Outdoor watering within 48 hours after at least 1/4 inch of rainfall
- Watering decorative grass on public medians
- Watering decorative grass in commercial, industrial, and institutional areas, including common areas of homeowners’ associations (HOAs) (see details below)
In June 2022, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency water conservation regulation that restricts commercial, industrial, and institutional sites from irrigating decorative/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.” The regulation was re-adopted in June 2023, and will remain in effect for one year, unless the State Water Board modifies it, readopts it, or ends it before then.
What resources are available to help save water and prepare for the next drought?
Here are some ways to help you save water and become more resilient:
- Set up a rainwater capture system to capture rain and use later in the summer for your outdoor plants. Rebates of up to $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.
- 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 great programs and resources available 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.
Use of recycled water for street sweeping and construction is still required.
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.
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. We expect many of these new behaviors and increased efficiency will continue into the future as well! The Pacific Institute has put together a tool to look at water consumption in different cities over time here, and monthly water reporting results are available on the State Water Board's website here.
What share of our water usage comes from hotels and restaurants?
Hotels and restaurants make up about 7-8% of Healdsburg water usage.
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: $11.9 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: $15.6 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 27 million gallons per year, or about 4% of current demand.
- The City has applied for another State grant ($8.5 million), which will offset an additional approximately 8 million gallons of potable water usage per year. This would increase the total potable water offset to approximately 35 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: $914,000)
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. Access to a year-round right at Dry Creek will help to improve winter water supplies as the well fields along the Russian River need to be shut down for maintenance.
- 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.
If you have other questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-431-3122.