Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, Transportation, WaterTags , , , , , ,

Occidental sewage transfer may be stalled by legalities

Frank Robertson, SONOMA WEST TIMES
A county plan to truck Occidental’s sewage to Guerneville for treatment and disposal appears to be stopped up for now owing to neighborhood opposition and possible legal issues.
Guernewood Park neighbors near the site where sewage would be unloaded at a Russian River Sanitation District pump station met with new Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins last week to vent their concerns about neighborhood truck traffic, potential odors and other compatibility issues if the sewage plan goes forward.
A sympathetic Hopkins told neighbors there may also be a legal problem if proposed pump station improvements, including a new paved driveway under the redwoods at the site, constitute an expansion of the sewer system onto vacant residential property next door.
“I don’t see how we can say that’s not an expansion,” said Hopkins, regarding a proposed new turnaround that sewage trucks would need on the property next to the lift station located between Highway 116 and Riverside Dr.
Sonoma County acquired the neighboring property in the 1980s as part of a legal settlement with the owner; a condition of the sale included an agreement that the county would not expand sewage system operations onto the neighboring property, said Hopkins. The previous owner had a house on the property that was in the path of a prevailing breeze carrying the lift station’s smell. The county demolished the house.
The deed restriction only surfaced last week after neighbors began asking questions about the Occidental sewage transfer plan that seemed to have been formulated with numerous discussions among Occidental Sanitation District residents but little or no dialogue with Guerneville residents whose properties would be impacted by the sewage transfer process involving from five to 15 daily truck deliveries of raw sewage arriving at the Riverside Drive lift station.
A Sonoma County Water Agency environmental review of the plan last year concluded it would have “no significant impact” on the Riverside Drive environment, but neighbors last week said they were never told about the project and are prepared to challenge the environmental finding in court.
Read more at: Occidental sewage transfer may be stalled by legalities – Sonoma West Times and News: News

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

Rooftop rain collection helps rural Sonoma County residents and salmon

Rain on the roof at Karl Andersen’s home in Bodega is more than a sweet sound of the season after four dry years.
It means he has enough water to irrigate his garden and greenhouse through the next fall, and that, in turn, means more water for the coho salmon in Salmon Creek, which meanders through the near-coast hamlet where Alfred Hitchcock famously filmed “The Birds” in 1963.
Rain runs off Andersen’s roof and through pipes into three green plastic storage tanks that hold a total of 15,000 gallons of water, a valuable amenity in a water-scarce corner of Sonoma County with California now officially in a fifth year of drought.
“They are just about ready to overflow for Christmas,” Andersen said last week, noting that December rains nearly topped off the tanks.
Because the state gets most of its rain in the winter and most of it escapes into the Pacific Ocean, the idea of capturing rainwater in tanks and ponds is gaining momentum, including a financial boost from Sonoma County’s two resource conservation districts.
The Sonoma RCD, which covers most of the county, and the Gold Ridge RCD, which covers the west county, are offering funds for the design and construction of water storage systems on rural homes and ranches in five watersheds that support coho salmon.
Read more at: Rooftop rain collection helps rural Sonoma County residents | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , , ,

Sonoma County residents' battle with wineries is about more than water

These days, the redwood-shaded creek by Laura and Ray Waldbaum’s house is a bone-dry path of rocks and gravel, its occasional stagnant pools a somber reminder of the salmon that once thrived there.
Fewer than 500 endangered coho now wend their way from a network of such creeks to the Russian River and out to sea, and the Chinook population is barely two-thirds of what it ought to be, according to wildlife officials.
The Waldbaums and many other rural Sonoma County residents blame wine: about 60,000 acres of vineyards, 439 wineries and 221 event centers that have permission to host 2,299 dinners, concerts, weddings and other events for as many as 32,176 people, largely under the guise of agricultural promotion.
Seven years ago, so many vineyards switched on their sprinklers to protect their vines from a spring cold snap that water levels in creeks feeding the Russian River dropped several feet in a matter of hours, suffocating 25,000 fish in two counties.
So when state water regulators this summer announced emergency drought restrictions to protect salmon in some of those same watersheds, residents were shocked to find that agricultural properties faced no water cutbacks.
Simmering resentment at the rapid growth of vineyards and wineries turned to fury against an industry that has a $13.4-billion impact on the Sonoma County economy. And it appears to have spoiled the party for wineries and growers who have embarked on a highly publicized effort to be the nation’s first wine region to be certified as completely “sustainable” by 2019.
That agricultural exemption is coming to an end, even if the war is not. The State Water Resources Control Board on Wednesday began sending “informational orders” requiring growers to provide details about where they get their water, how much they use and how they apply it. Growers still won’t have to match residents’ water use cutbacks, although some have voluntarily done so.
The two-week rollout of the regulations, which also cover wells, is being closely watched by the state’s $46-billion agriculture industry, which will face similar groundwater regulation over the next few years.
Read more at: Sonoma County residents’ battle with wineries is about more than water – LA Times

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , Leave a comment on Being water-wise – saving water at home

Being water-wise – saving water at home

Alessandra Bolger & David Wills, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
We are the water planet, with 72 percent surface water, but of that, 96.5 percent is ocean salt water. The other 2.5 percent is freshwater, with two-thirds of that in ice and only one-third in lakes and rivers. That doesn’t leave much left for human consumption.In California, urban water use is 10 percent, compared to 40 percent for agriculture and 50 percent for environmental use.
Unfortunately, Governor Brown has only legislated to reduce urban usage. This reduction varies from 15 percent (San Franciso) to 35 percent (Hillsborough) over the next 9 months.
Most grapes, about 95 percent, are now grown using drip sprinklers, but in Sonoma Valley the aquifer can supply enough water for the old ‘dry farm’ way, and some growers are reverting to this. Depending on who you ask, it takes from 3.5 to 39-gallons to make a glass of wine.
Livestock water use is especially high: One pound of beef uses 1,799 gallons, one pound of pork takes over 600. A head of broccoli takes 5.4 gallons, a walnut 4.9 gallons, a head of lettuce 3.5 gallons, a tomato 3.5 gallons and an almond 1.1 gallons. Being a conscious consumer is now more important than ever.
What can we do as individuals to save our precious water? Rumi says it well, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Saving water at home

  • Fix leaks in your home – nationally, leaks waste over 1 trillion gallons
  • Turn off the faucet to brush your teeth – save 8 gallons daily.
  • An old faucet uses 2.2 gallons a minute, a low-flow uses only 1.5 gallons.
  • A bath uses up to 70 gallons – a five-minute shower uses only 10 to 25 gallons.
  • Water efficient shower heads limit the flow. Place buckets in the shower to collect water and use in the toilet or to water plants.
  • Modern toilets use 1.28 gallons – while older toilets guzzle from 3.5 to 7 gallons. (Use water from the sink to fill the tank.) Using perfectly clean water is a total waste. “If it’s yellow let it mellow” or try the brick in the tank method.
  • In the kitchen, most water is used washing dishes. An automatic dishwasher is best – if you must wash by hand, lightly dampen and soak the china first – then just use a dribble to wash. Hand washing dishes also saves electricity.
  • An old clothes washing machine uses 40 gallons per load, efficient frontloaders use 15-30 gallons.  Cut the number of loads and fill the washer. Line dry your clothes. Laundry detergent phosphorus pollutes our rivers – cut back.
  • Watering lawns is a huge waste. Lawns were used on the 18th century to show how many sheep you owned, no need for that now. Replace lawns with wood chips, let leaves go to mulch or use gravel.
  • Dish, shower, sink, and laundry water comprise 50-80 percent of residential ‘gray water’ – use it in the garden. Fit a syphon to to a bath tap and drain the bath – run a hose to the garden out the window.
  • Collect rainwater for your garden – reroute your gutters to fill barrels. The average roof collects 600 gallons per inch of rain. *

*Numbers for water and use based on many and varying, estimates, take with a pinch of salt. 
Source: Being Water-Wise – Saving Water at Home