Wells running dry as groundwater recedes in Sonoma

Christian Kallen, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE

May 5, 2015: A public hearing on groundwater in the Sonoma Valley, and the formation of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency, will be held at the VOMWD board meeting Room, 19039 Bay St., El Verano. The board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m., and the hearing will start at about 6:45 p.m.

If praying for more rain isn’t working, and conserving usage isn’t sufficient to provide enough water for Sonoma, maybe it’s time to look down – underground. There, however, the picture gets murkier.“
We can see an open storage reservoir, like Lake Sonoma or Lake Mendocino, how much water is in there, and how much the decline is,” said Dan Muelrath. “Groundwater is much trickier. You can’t see it.”

Larbre, (of Larbre Well Drilling) who’s been keeping records since the ‘90s, said that since that time, the water level has declined about 85 feet, most of it in the past two years.

Muelrath is the executive director of the Valley of the Moon Water District, which is holding a public hearing on the groundwater situation in Sonoma Valley next Tuesday, May 5, at the regular VOMWD board meeting in El Verano.
But well-driller Ray Larbre says he and other drillers “know what’s going on underground – but nobody asks us.” Larbre has lived all his life on the same property on Arnold Drive, carrying on his father’s well-drilling business, Larbre Well Drilling and Pump, founded in 1932.“
Everybody’s turning to groundwater to solve their irrigation problems, for landscape and around their houses,” said Larbre. “All they’re doing now by drilling these wells for residential use is creating more draw from the strata and less water for everybody else.”
The 71-year-old well-driller has seen wet years and dry, but nothing like this current drought. Recalling the drought years of 1976-78, he said, “That drought was severe but this one is more severe and long lasting – it’s really changed the landscape as far as I’m concerned.”
Concerns over the increased use of groundwater, and its depletion, prompted the state to pass the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act last year. One of its key components is the creation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA), tasked with assessing conditions in local groundwater basins and adopting locally based sustainability plans.
Next week’s public hearing will discuss the formation of a local GSA to manage the resource. The VOMWD will open the floor to a public hearing on the question of which of the affected agencies should take the lead in forming the local GSA – Valley of the Moon, City of Sonoma, the Sonoma County Water Agency or the County itself.
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