Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In a dramatic shift from California’s history of allowing landowners to freely pump and consume water from their own wells, Sonoma County’s rural residents and many others will soon begin paying for the water drawn from beneath their feet.
In the sprawling 81,284-acre Santa Rosa Plain groundwater basin, the proposed regulatory fee for a rural resident is $18 to $25 a year, much lower than the rates in the more sparsely populated Petaluma and Sonoma valleys.
In the 44,846-acre Sonoma Valley basin, the fee would be $48 to $80 a year, and in the 46,661-acre Petaluma Valley basin, it would be $115 to $200 a year.
The residential fees are based on an assumption that rural residents typically pump a half-acre foot of well water a year. Most homes do not have water meters and none will be installed under the fee program.
Large groundwater water users — including ranches, cities, water districts and businesses — would pay fees based on the volume of water drawn from their wells.
Fees in the Santa Rosa basin would be $35 to $50 per acre foot, in Sonoma Valley $95 to $160 per acre foot and in Petaluma Valley $230 to $400 per acre foot.