The driest year in California's recorded history has passed, and there is no promise that the drought will end any time soon. Some scientists think we are in a mega-drought cycle that could last for many years. We are writing to encourage municipal leadership on this issue, as well as action on the part of every Sonoma County resident.
The specter of extended drought is as scary as the "super storms" happening in other parts of the world. Equally frightening is the silence of our public officials, who have barely acknowledged this crisis nor called for mandatory conservation measures.
While we are told that our county does not need to worry about this unprecedented lack of rain because there is water in Lake Sonoma, the fact is that most of us depend on groundwater reserves for our primary or backup source of water. Water from Lake Sonoma is completely irrelevant to a significant part of our population, including virtually all of our farms and ranches. Even if Lake Sonoma refills this winter, which is highly unlikely, our seriously depleted groundwater reserves will not.
In the 1970s, California experienced a drought less severe than this one, and mandatory conservation measures were enacted in many communities. We stopped watering lawns, washing our cars and sidewalks with hoses, and used low-flow water devices. We let "yellow mellow" and took short showers. These measures made a big difference, and we found we could do just fine using less water.
We call on our supervisors, the Sonoma County Water Agency and the SCWA's municipal clients to enact mandatory water conservations measures immediately. In addition to prohibitions and fees, there should be incentives for businesses to convert landscapes to low water plantings. Independent water districts and HOAs must mandate conservation measures as well.
And we ask each resident of our county to count every drop of water as the precious, scarce resource it is, and to do your part to adapt to our changing world. Even if there is rain in the next few months, extended droughts are likely in our region. It's time to make conservation a way of life.
Rachel Kaplan works as a somatic psychotherapist, permaculture gardener and educator. She lives in Petaluma. Wendy Krupnick teaches, consults and practices organic farming and gardening and is active with several related community groups.
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