Many at the hearing said they were mainly concerned that the new rules do not address water usage by rural residents or farmers, over-pumping of some of the county’s groundwater basins or the impact of the drought on sensitive plant and animal habitat in riparian areas.
Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved sweeping new limits on well drilling, making the most significant changes to the county’s water well ordinance in nearly 40 years.
The revised ordinance establishes well-construction standards to prevent groundwater contamination, incorporates new protective buffer zones along streams and requires new wells be equipped with monitoring devices to measure groundwater levels in the future.
The rules also prohibit drilling new wells into streams and wetlands and require that property owners pay a $150 annual fee to test water, ensuring it is safe for drinking.
The updates, made amid California’s historic drought, are meant partly to prevent new wells from sucking streams dry and diminishing connected underground supplies. The rules also are intended to shield streams from sediment and other pollution that can be unleashed during well construction.
The revised regulations, however, apply only to new wells and do not cover the estimated 40,000 wells that now exist outside of city limits. The action also does not establish a limit on the number of new wells permitted by the county or require any reductions of water usage.
Supervisors called the updates overdue, though board members said they were concerned the new rules did not sufficiently address the depletion of aquifers and streams amid the drought.
Read more at: In bid to conserve streams, aquifers, Sonoma County | The Press Democrat