But not enough to store? After multiple years of drought serious enough for local agencies to impose water conservation measures, major use restrictions, tiered pricing, and fines, we’re surprised there hasn’t been a proposal to create additional water storage.
Here we are in the midst of heavy rains, weeks of runoff, surging creeks, and even flooding, while all that beautiful, fresh rainwater simply makes its way into San Francisco Bay.
We wonder why no new major water storage tanks have been built locally, no water storage requirements placed on new home construction, and no financial incentives provided to existing homeowners and businesses to collect and store rainwater?
As it is, downspouts are sending huge amounts of water into street gutters, where it makes its way into storm drains that feed the creeks.
Some of that water could be collected in underground cisterns or above ground rain barrels and used for irrigation during the dry summer months.
Sonoma Water, the county agency that provides the bulk of Sonoma Valley’s drinking water by extracting water from the Russian River, recently announced that it will be increasing its rates to its contractors for water purchase, to improve and replace aging pipelines and infrastructure. That means Valley of the Moon Water and the City of Sonoma will pass on those higher costs to their customers.
Okay, but how about increasing water storage facilities in Sonoma Valley, as well? Addressing water usage is just one part of planning for a dryer future; equally important is increasing the stored supply.
Increasing groundwater supply is another way all this excess rain should be used, but we see little evidence of planning for that. Certain areas in the Valley are perfect for seasonal flooding, where collected rainwater can slowly seep into the ground and over time refill overused aquifers. This is exactly what’s being done in Southern California where wells have been running dry, and we should be doing the same thing here where appropriate. We’re certain that many large landowners would be happy to lease their property for seasonal wetland and recharge use.
Water rates have been progressively rising here for years, and are now a significant portion of monthly costs. The era of cheap water is over, as is the expectation that each year will include substantial seasonal rainfall. Yes, replacing aging infrastructure is very important, but building systems of resilience is equally essential.
If an earthquake or other natural disaster has an impact on the water distribution system, increased local storage can mitigate the effects while repairs are made.
Such resilience can be implemented in both large-scale and small-scale ways, from large storage tanks to smaller homeowner solutions. It’s all part of proper planning.
For now, we have little choice but to watch our creeks run full and wish some of that precious water could be put to good use. Although our local water agencies haven’t done much to capture water, each homeowner and business owner can implement rainwater capture solutions right now by adding storage tanks and barrels to their downspouts.
A visit to the Sonoma Community Center’s storage tank on the west side of the building, or this 6,000 litre water tank, provides a good example of what we all can and should do routinely.