Since the October fires, I have read periodicals and listened to the news regarding accounts of the catastrophic fires and the tragic aftermath, but nowhere has there been any mention of water use by the wine industry.
Vineyard owners sink wells hundreds of feet into aquifers, divert water from rivers, streams, creeks, and seem not to care about how their practices affect the environment. If wineries keep extracting ground water and diverting water from natural sources, the environment will become drier leading to more extensive, catastrophic fires than the North Bay fire.
Sonomacounty.com states, "Sonoma County stretches from the Pacific Coast in the west to the Mayacamas Mountains in the east, and is home to almost 60,000 acres of vineyards and more than 425 wineries." In 2016, 62,136 acres of grapes were irrigated.
Since so many people have to start over, it is time for people involved in the wine industry to become introspective, to take a long, hard look at their practices and change them in a way that respects people, animals and the natural world.
It is time for the wine industry to be accountable to the people who live in Sonoma County and to stop catering to tourists. While I understand that the county needs the revenue generated by the wine industry, too much is too much. Too many vineyards, wineries, tasting rooms, event centers. Too many mountains, hills, woodlands, meadows and fields destroyed in order to plant grapes. Too many animals dead on our roads because what once was their habitat is fenced off to protect vineyards. Too much traffic and inebriated people driving county roads that they do not know.
Due to the catastrophic fires, thousands of people have lost homes, belongings, businesses and animals, so I say to the people in the wine industry, "Slow down." People in this county are suffering and will be in shock for a while. Nothing is normal in Sonoma County, and no one will ever be the same. We are a changed people. Please change your winery practices to something that involves the whole, not just the few.
Pamela Singer is a poet and teacher who lives in Occidental.
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