Drought & Water Crises

A water crises

California is facing unprecedented drought conditions. Gov. Newsom declared a drought emergency for Sonoma and Mendocino counties due to "acute and dramatic" water-supply woes. Both Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino, which combine to supply 600,000 North Bay residents with drinking water have never been this low, this late in the water year. Two Rock-area dairy farmers have to truck in water from Petaluma. Mayor Barrett has joined the National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation, which asks residents to make a long-term commitment to manage water resources.

Sonoma County supervisors proclaimed a local drought emergency on April 27. Grant Davis, general manager of Sonoma Water, the region’s main drinking water supplier, said residents should “practice” using 20% to 25% less water than they have been, until further instructions come along — likely by next week.

Climate change is the driving factor for drought. Protecting water resources should be one of the top goals of the City of Petaluma. This is the key to our future.

Don't Petaluma developments add to our water crises?

An interesting article appeared in the Argus Courier April 22, 2021, edition: "Drought won't slow construction." People are asking: "Why are we building housing during a water shortage?"

Answer: The short answer is that population growth is already "baked into" the city’s water management plans. The city buys water, which is sourced from the Russian River Water System and occasionally supplemented by groundwater, from the Sonoma County Water Agency.

A quote from the April 22, 2021, article in The Press Democrat, "Newsom declares drought emergency"

  • "The Russian River system is of particular concern at this point because it is not connected to wider state and federal networks and does not benefit from snowmelt. The Russian River watershed "really relies on precipitation falling in this watershed."

The Russian River Water System is one of the places where Petaluma gets its water. As part of the agreement, the city agrees to a framework for how supply reductions will be handled in the event of a water shortage. Quote: "By 2040, for example, Petaluma officials expect to be providing water to 73,350 people, compared to just over 60,000 today."

Does projecting water needs into the year 2040 make sense? The weakness of this long-term, 19-year goal is that climate change factors (including drought) are unpredictable. Why not set shorter-term goals, evaluate attainment of those goals, and then commit to new goals?

Petaluma in Stage 4 of water emergency

The drought is an immediate emergency. The City of Petaluma is now in Stage 4 of water emergency. Petaluma is also working to update its 2020 Urban Water Management Plan, which will include water demand projections through 2045.



Development "baked into" water demand

Petalumans for Responsible Planning has been focused on the latest Davidon plans to build 28 luxury homes. Below is a lengthy list of other development projects proposed or being built in Petaluma as of July 2022.


How much water will it take to support these proposed new housing units? How many people will be living in these housing units and using water? Is the drought (and other climate issues) part of the approval process?