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Sonoma County Gazette, January 2016

Conflicting needs: drought, conservation, and inadequate housing….2015 has flown by so rapidly, we barely caught our breaths and now it’s gone. First and foremost, the year was marked by drought. Media filled us with daily messages to save water, exchange grass for cash, take shorter showers, turn off water when we brush, etc. It was even suggested that the dog be allowed to lick your dishes clean.

Contractor Conservation a great success….It worked! Each of Sonoma County Water Agency’s (SCWA) major contractors had been assigned conservation targets by the State Water Board. Because of extraordinary citizen efforts, targets were met and even exceeded by a significant amount. But now water rates are going up to maintain water infrastructure and cover costs of water delivery to compensate for decreased use. (Contractors include Santa Rosa, Petaluma, North Marin, Sonoma, Valley of the Moon, Rohnert Park, Cotati, and Windsor.)

November 2015 Newsletter

Where has this year gone?

Though it seemingly began only ‘yesterday’, 2015 now winds down as we take stock of RRWPC’s river protection accomplishments, and look to see where we head next. This year, as always, was filled with addressing various water concerns, including drought and conservation, toxic blue-green algae, excessive phosphorus, new septic and bacteria regulations, issues of toxins in wastewater and our environment, and irrigation runoff. We photographed river conditions, read and commented on lengthy documents, gave testimony to decision makers, actively participated in Sonoma County Water Coalition, wrote six articles for the Gazette, maintained our website and organization, and more.

May 2015 Newsletter

Dear RRWPC Supporter:

You might as well consult a Ouija board if you want to know when the drought will end. In Sonoma County, we have been getting very confusing signals from weather patterns and rainfall amounts the last few years. While the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) claims we are in the fourth year of drought, rainfall numbers don’t necessarily bear that out.

Erratic rainfall averages during the last four years….

Normally, Santa Rosa gets an average of 32” of rain each season. (Santa Rosa’s data is the most readily accessible.) In 2012, Santa Rosa got 37.58” for entire year according to the University of California Cooperative Extension. In 2013, they had 4.85”, in 2014: 34.66”, and in the first five months of 2015: 4.33”, although we do not know what November and December will bring. So according to the numbers, in the last four years we have had two normal years, one very dry year, and this year is definitely lower than normal but may not be nearly as bad as 2013. At this point in 2012 we had accumulated 18.07” rainfall, and in 2014:17.41”, putting us far ahead of this year.

Sonoma County Gazette, March 2015: Aging West County septic systems

Aging West County septic systems long time concern for local regulators….The lack of septic management in West Sonoma County has been problematic to local officials for many years. Local waste disposal projects involve dealing with a difficult environment that includes sliding slopes, big floods, high ground water, and towering trees that shake and occasionally fall during heavy winds. In addition, we are located in an active earthquake zone.

Many of the mostly substandard lots contain inadequate septic systems by today’s standards, especially on steep hillsides and river banks, and may leak during heavy rains, sometimes ending up in groundwater, local streams, and/or the Russian River.

Sonoma County Gazette, November 2015: New Septic Regulations Coming….

Proposed bacteria regulations may impact river housing…..Reassuring words from Regional Board Staff during the meeting in Monte Rio on September 22nd, went something like this, “No one will lose their home because of new septic regulations meant to protect the health of those who recreate in the river.”

But why did few people in the audience believe these words? While the regulators’ goal was not meant to remove people from their homes, proposed standards aim to keep all bacteria out of the Russian River but for those contributed by wild animals, probably an impossible standard to meet. Regarding the funding of this task, while the agency provided a list of potential funders for septic replacement and repair, low-income homeowners know it’s very difficult to actually obtain those funds without obligating themselves to major debt.