Saturday, February 28, 2009

Our local Petaluma water situation

It's obvious that the writing is on the wall for water rationing in Petaluma. Unless we experience a Noah's ark-like weather pattern between now and the summertime, it's unlikely we won't be hit with either a reduction mandate based on prior usage, or a per capita allotment. There are no other alternatives to a water shortage of the magnitude of our current one.

On Mon. Feb. 23rd, Mike Ban, Petaluma's director of water resources, gave a report to our City Council on Petaluma's upcoming water outlook. Many water-consumers weighed in with our councilmembers before that meeting. You can read about our anticipation of this meeting at this link, where you will find another link to read some of the responses given by Councilmember Glass, Mayor Torliatt, Councilmember Healy, and Vice Mayor Barrett.

P4C member Sarah Gibson attended Monday's meeting to listen to Mr. Ban's report and to our Council's responses to that report, as well as to inform the Council of our upcoming Petaluma Spring Cleaning Day event/project. To watch a video of the Council meeting, click on this link, and then, under Archived Videos, click on the video link to the right of Regular City Council/PCDC Meeting, Feb. 23, 2009. If you're extremely wonkish, by all means watch the entire video. If you aren't, you can forward to about 10:00 to listen to Ban's excellent report. To hear David Glass' remarks following the report, forward to about 28:00. Don't be put off by the fact that the video starts out identified as being from Feb. 18; it is not.

Here are Glass' comments:
I think that every councilmember has received e-mails ... from various people, but the concern that I get overwhelmingly ... is that [those water consumers who have] done everything they can to conserve on their water, they're in the lowest possible tier, and they're concerned that with either voluntary or mandatory water cutbacks coming on a per capita basis, that they're going to be unduly impacted. I don't think that it's designed to work that way. Could you address that?

Mike Ban:
We've been getting similar calls, and what we've been explaining to our customers is that what we'll be doing in a stage 1 is reminding people about what they can do to be efficient, make sure they irrigate and the water doesn't run down the sidewalk, but basically to be efficient with their water use. At this point, we're not talking about water rationing or going to per capita usage. It's really to remind people of what they can do to be efficient with their water use.

This was a clear explanation of what we're being asked to do "at this point." What we still don't know, however, and what we want to make sure is addressed equitably and with the health, safety, and welfare of all water-consumers in mind, pertains to what we will be asked to do at the point where a stage 1 voluntary conservation effort leaves off and the peak summertime flow picks up, where we will potentially be required to reduce our water consumption by a stated 22% below last summer's usage, keeping in mind that, since our water situation is very dynamic, it is not unreasonable to predict that that 22% could become 30-50%.

An across-the-board water use percentage reduction mandate works great for those who over-consumed last summer, who conserved marginally or not at all, for those who maintained grassy lawns and backyard swimming pools, but it most certainly unduly impacts those who conserved last summer to the maximum extent possible.

The next date to keep on our calendars is April 6, when our water resources officials will revisit this issue with our City Council and introduce an emergency water resolution based on their water forecasts at that time.

If you are so inclined to e-mail our city councilmembers about Ban's water report and/or Councilmember Glass' comment at its end, you may easily do so by clicking on the Petaluma City Council link on the right-hand side of this blog.

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