707-769-2008   *  SONOMA COUNTY   *   CA   *  94951


Sonoma County has received numerous warnings that we are BOTH running out of water and that future temperatures will, on average, rise. We know, right now, that reduced water levels and rising temperatures means that the present water crisis is about to get much worse; this is guaranteed. What we have to do is prepare for this looming crisis today.

The most important thing we can do today is to balance growth (which implies increased water use) with the amount of water available to us. We need a groundwater management plan. Luckily, the California Water Code already has a blueprint for implementing a water management plan; it's commonly called AB 3030 and can be found in sections 10750 to 10755.4 of the Water Code.

Approximately 170 other communities in California ALREADY have groundwater management plans, there is no reason why Sonoma County shouldn't have one too. Sonoma County relies on more domestic wells than any other county.


What warnings?

In 2003, the Department of the Interior issued a clear warning to all residents in the American West.

The American West is facing a serious crisis. In the long run, we will not have enough water to meet the fast-growing needs of city residents, farmers, ranchers, Native Americans, and wildlife. The demand is increasing; the supply is not. It is time for Americans to become proactive in our efforts to resolve the problem. Crisis management is not a long-term solution.
U.S. Dept of Interior, 2003

The warning, the result of a study called: Water 2025: Preventing Crisis and Conflict in the West, Included maps that predicted areas of conflict over water resources by 2025 if nothing is done now to prevent those conflicts.

map of potential water conflict by 2025

(click on map for a larger view)

Sonoma and Marin Counties are clearly identified as having a "dark yellow" status for conflict. The Department of the Interior interprets this risk as "substantial". In fact, not only is there a "substantial risk for conflict" the risk is calculated as being the SAME as Klamath County. Conflict has already commenced in Klamath County and people have been shot and shot at.

blow up of conflict map

Conflict is no joke and the warning does not come from overly cautious environmentalists. The warning comes from one of the most conservative bastions of the Bush Administration. The Department of the Interior has no qualms about pumping oil in Alaska but at the same time sees that some Americans have a high potential to engage in water wars.

Plenty of warnings

But there have been plenty of other warnings. A recent study by 19 scientists representing as many different disciplines envisioned California's climate becoming much hotter in the coming decades. The low prediction was anywhere from four to six degrees Fahrenheit increase. This is enough to exert a profound affect on plants and animals. But the high end prediction is flat-out scary:

. . . annual temperature averages could jump by 7 to 10 degrees. It could be a whopping 15 degrees warmer in summer. That would make California's balmy coastal cities feel more like hot inland towns do now, while "inland cities would feel like Death Valley does today" . . .


Another study by an the Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based independent research group, revealed that the real challenge in California's future will not be energy, as many people believe, but water. Actually, the two are closely tied but planners have overlooked this important relationship. The Natural Resources Defense Council published the findings, which they summarize like this: "Water conservation could reduce air pollution, prevent blackouts".

In the western United States, there is a close connection between water and power resources. Water utilities use large amounts of energy to treat and deliver water, and even after utilities deliver water, consumers burn more energy to heat, cool and use it. This August 2004 report from NRDC and the Pacific Institute shows how water planners in California have largely failed to consider the energy implications of their decisions, and suggests a model for how policymakers can calculate the amount of energy consumed in water use. Integrating energy use into water planning can save money, reduce waste, protect our environment and strengthen our economy.(click here to see more)


Where is the water?

When we think of water resoures in Sonoma County most people think of the Russian River, various creeks and streams, lakes, the Laguna de Santa Rosa, or massive reservoirs. Actually the County has VASTLY more water stored out of sight underground than it does in all of the surface water that we can see.

The chart aabove clearly shows that Sonoma County's water is MOSTLY underground. This one reason why the County needs a groundwater management plan pursuant to AB 3030.

Remember, groundwater levels in the County have been steadily dropping. In many areas we already have groundwater overdraft, where more water is being pumped out of the ground than is able to go back in, a process called "recharge". In fact, many areas of open space, areas that have been identified by the state as "groundwater recharge lands" have been paved over and built upon.

We need a plan today.


H.R. Downs, O.W.L. Foundation

Many useful links in the library. Click above.

O.W.L. Foundation


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