November 2013 Newsletter: Wastewater Irrigation Permits for Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park

Dear RRWPC Supporter:

If the contents of your mailbox look anything like ours this time of year, you have somewhere between 3 to 15 daily donation appeals from national, state, and local nonprofit organizations, most doing important work and providing needed services.  Yet, RRWPC requests your special attention this season in acknowledgement of our 35 year history of tracking water quality and quantity issues in the lower Russian River.

2014 promises to be a busy year for RRWPC…. 

RRWPC will be following many critical issues next year including: Fish Flow Project EIR (i.e. ‘low flow’), septic regulation issues, especially as applied to lower Russian River, new water quality studies on bacteria, temperature, and nutrients, nutrient trading, and mandatory conservation policies needed to protect summer flows.

Important Regional Board Meeting November 21st….

This year included two rounds of comments to the Regional Board concerning Santa Rosa’s new discharge permit.  So far we have not seen the responses to comments even though the meeting is only two weeks away.  This meeting will start at 8:30 am with the Permit item #5 on the agenda and will probably be heard around 9 AM.  The office is located at 5550 Skylane Blvd. Suite #A.  Review background documents at   We encourage supporters to attend this important meeting.

Important issues regarding permit….

RRWPC comments focused on the Reclamation Permit that addresses Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park’s wastewater irrigation.  An important unknown element of the current situation will be the monstrous casino that just opened November 5th.   The casino had given $13 million dollars to Rohnert Park for dealing with sewer impacts and they decided to spend it all on a new pipeline to serve 4000 NEW HOMES rather than repair their system that had been neglected for several years due to a lack of funds.  We are particularly concerned about the impact both the Casino AND extensive new growth will have on our creeks and waterways.

RRWPC reviewed the last seven years of records of Rohnert Park for irrigated landscape water use.  We discovered evidence that Rohnert Park was not in compliance with the Basin Plan or the Recycled Water Policy in terms of irrigation runoff.  We felt that the new permit did a very poor job in assuring that these regulations would be followed.  While the requirements were extensive, the monitoring and enforcement were extremely weak.  Without strengthening those elements, the Permit is inadequate and will not protect water quality in the Laguna, the water body where this runoff ends up.

Key weaknesses….

RRWPC has analyzed the last seven years of record and has found extensive over-irrigation of wastewater on Rohnert Park properties, a large number of repeat offenders, lack of detail in monitoring reports, inadequate oversight, and overall seeming lack of concern for preventing discharges into our local streams in the summer time.

Most reported runoff incidents noted repeated water on curb, gutter, driveway, many in areas we emphasized in our comments. (In a special report, Redwood Creek Apartments was found to have runoff on 10 of 14 days.  Roberts Lake Park was over-irrigating on 11 of 14 days.  Mountain Shadows Apartments was over-irrigating on 8 days.)  Regulations do not allow these kind of repeated runoff events.

The irrigation contract says little about how system will be managed to prevent runoff.  RP’s guidelines assuring safe use of recycled water is one page long and contains 12 items starting with the statement that “Runoff of reclaimed water and spray shall be minimized.”  They did nothing to stress importance of requirement or details on how to accomplish it.

Without going into extensive detail, these documents provide evidence that Rohnert Park needs to better manage their landscape irrigation system.  In the 14 days monitored above, there were 129 overflow instances reported. If this were extrapolated for the whole summer, we are talking about very significant numbers. RRWPC’s full comments can be found at our website under  Commentaries/Regional Board.

Brief update on SCWA’s conservation program…..

Last spring many of you sent letters to the State asking for a Russian River water contractor’s mandatory conservation program.  Instead we got the “20 Gallon Challenge” from the Water Agency.  They spent many thousands of dollars on advertising for a tepid response.  While they claimed that they had an unverified water use savings of 4%, budget numbers for the year indicated an 18% increase in water sales.  Since it is unlikely that water sales would increase much in winter, we think it’s safe to say that most of the increase occurred at the same time as the conservation program.  Furthermore, since there was little rain last spring, conservation should have started far sooner than it did.  We will continue to push for mandatory conservation next summer.

RRWPC thanks our supporters this holiday season….

This is the time when we thank all who have supported us this past year, including our Board of Directors (Sherrie Althouse, Nichae Blume, Dave Blanchard, Dennis O’Leary, and Brenda Adelman), our numerous mailer volunteers, and all of you who contribute to sustain our efforts.

We thank Russian River Senior Center staff for allowing us to use their space to assemble our mailers.  We thank Mary Anne Sobieraj, Rick Ganns, and Dave Blanchard for website creation and upkeep and Mark Wiley for helping keep our computers functioning smoothly.  We also thank publisher Vesta Copestakes for Sonoma County Gazette, for regularly publishing our articles. (see:  Vesta has also contributed in-kind donations of her graphic skills to RRWPC, as exemplified by the enclosed donor list.

Last, but certainly not least, the enclosed donor list acknowledges those who have given $20 or more between November 1, 2012, and October 31, 2013.  RRWPC is grateful to all for your loyal support, which clearly demonstrates how much you care about our work that focuses on Russian River protection, making it possible for us to sustain our efforts. Donations coming in after Oct. 31st, will appear in next year’s donor list.

Please join our action email list!

Those who shared their email addresses with RRWPC are participating in our action list and receive important announcements on issues coming up between mailers, such as sending letters of support when time is short.  We do not share email address lists and use them infrequently for important announcements and calls to action.  If you would like to take part, please put email address on a donor card if you are sending in a contribution, or just send an email to asking to be on list.

RRWPC needs your support!

RRWPC has taken on numerous challenges this last and we anticipate that next year will be very demanding as well.  We are in need of donations of any size. Please give as generously as you can.  Also, please pass this information on to other interested parties.   You can contact us at  for further information.