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Into the Future - Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County


Into the Future
Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County

By Vesta Copestales

Last year, a woman from Seattle had spent enough time in Sonoma County that she became fascinated with how committed people are to our home, how much in love with Sonoma County so many people are, and how we approach conflicts that put us at odds with each other. 

Judie Messier is in the business of Conflict Resolution, so her fascination became a study in Sonoma County’s biggest issue - water. She approached Gazette community columnists and me, then embarked on a series of interviews with people who are in some way impacted by our water shortage, and for some - have the ability to shape how our county deals with water, water services, water conservation and water use.

Water has been clearly identified as our #1 issue, so we pulled one question from these interviews for people to ponder....If folks work together now to confront the water situation in Sonoma County, what is your vision of Sonoma County in 20 years?

We’d like to pose that question to you as well - our Gazette readers. You are as much a part of the water system as the people who maintain and protect this valuable resource. As you read the answers others have given, please consider sending us YOUR or to the mailing address on page 4. THANK YOU.

The full interviews are online at under Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County. This month she returned for Round #2. 

Here is how Round #1 answered this question that impacts everyone.

If folks work together now to confront the water situation in Sonoma County, what is your vision of Sonoma County in 20 years? 

“That Sonoma County will not only be able to meet its own needs in 20 years, but that it will have designed itself to provide for the needs of future growth in population & needs.”  - Bill Williams, manager, BoDean Company 

“Vision is for a county that is very knowledgeable about their water resources so they can make informed decisions about their responsibility & relationship towards water.  And that we all have enough, of course. ” - Brittany Heck, Executive Director, Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

“No idea.  I feel that all bets are off with climate change.  My hope is that riparian corridors are restored & enhanced; vineyards diversify; there are zero lawns that are not actively used; composting toilets are the norm; there are mini biological water recycling facilities all over; oak trees & other native vegetation are regenerating; vegetables are growing in community gardens in every urban neighborhood.” - Wendy Krupnick, VP, North Coast Chapter, Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF)

“Community-government partnerships would examine all land use plans, and suggest changes that preserve land stability & water supplies.  County processes would require precise scientific evaluations and outside-County reviews before granting permits.  The groundwater management processes are a beginning but there is no obvious reason yet for people involved to see this as a step toward rational management.” - Jane Nielson, PhD, Secretary, The O.W.L. Foundation  

“I see a healthy, vibrant community that protects its natural resources and has a strong and diverse economy.  Tourism, agriculture, and industry work together to support the future growth and development of the region and protect the natural beauty of our environment.  We have the basic framework for this vision, coupled with a deep commitment to our community, and a powerful sense of pride and of place”. - Honore Comfort, Executive Director, Sonoma County Vintners

“Sonoma County is in a long term good place re water.  Population growth is under control.  Agricultural & industrial use is efficient & not wasteful.  Using grey water better is a real opportunity.” - Tom Klein, Proprietor, Rodney Strong Wine Estates 

“That we are a beautiful prosperous place. I am moved & excited by who we are and how we become that place.  This is the work we have ahead of us.” - Susan Shaw, Director, North Bay Organizing Project 

“Vision is for a county that is very knowledgeable about their water resources so they can make informed decisions about their responsibility & relationship towards water.  And that we all have enough, of course.” - Brittany Heck, Executive Director, Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

”A balanced water budget for both surface and groundwater.  This means we have balanced our water withdrawal in such a way as to keep our aquifers at a steady level and to keep our surface waters delivering the co-equal goals of providing for human needs, including agriculture, and to protect ecosystem services such as habitat, ground water recharge, recreation, and flood control.” - Joseph McIntyre, Executive Director, Ag Innovations Network 

We will be prepared to make informed decisions to maintain a healthy water supply & the watershed we depend on, to fully understand the interconnectedness between surface & groundwater, & to be adaptive & responsive to climate change & sea level rise.  That we can live in balance/harmony with competing interests, and be able to adapt & change when necessary.” - Efren Carrillo, Supervisor, District 5, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

”Hopefully, we will have learned to work together for any future emergencies and to be well prepared to face them together as a united community.  I am hoping this water situation will not last.  Lots of good rains and better storage of water will help solve the drought.  But we will be better prepared to work together on earthquakes, etc.“ - E. Orlean Koehle, State President, Eagle Forum of California 

“I think it’s possible to be in balance.  I see groundwater recharge areas being conserved and valued and protected.  I see surface waters being embraced and honored, allowing ecology to works its magic.  I see swails, to capture and sink rainwater, becoming the norm, vs. the exciting new (or re-new) method.  Permeable pavement.  Bio swails.  Not allowing runoff to occur to the extent possible.  Sink rainwater on-site to store in the ground water table for later.  I see lots more capture of heavy storm waters by sinking and directing the groundwater recharge areas.  I see a thriving diversified agricultural community that embraces the natural features of the land, while, of course, maximizing the output of their farms without using toxic pesticides because the value of the water quality is higher.  Same with the “old pollution” of animal waste – it can and should be captured and used – for new organic fertilizer, for bio-reactors to create energy (renewable energy!).  I see permaculture oozing its way into systems thinking and design in a way that helps us gain the next advances in conservation, sustainability, and political harmony to the extent it can exist.  I also think there is an industrial/consumer awakening that is needed and I’m hopeful it’s coming – why do we accept single use plastics and items that quickly become “trash?”  As much as possible we need to eliminate the “triple packaging” of things and find less resource-intensive solutions.  Same for “known carcinogens” that are “allowable” – we’ve all dealt with loved ones getting cancer & disease.  Let’s eliminate cancer “upstream.”Denny Rosatti, Executive Director, Sonoma County Conservation Action

“We would have ways to reduce water use, capture urban run-off & re-use urban water.  We would have small storage ponds available for agriculture” - Noreen Evans, former California State Senator, Senate District 02

“In 20 years, Sonoma County will have an even more secure future.  Our water supply will be durable and sustainable; our fisheries will be thriving; our communities will be efficient and healthy.” - Grant Davis, General Manager, Sonoma County Water Agency

“Sustainable Sonoma County.  Our winegrowers have given themselves a 5 year goal to achieve 100% sustainability.  They are leading by example and Sonoma County Vintners and Sonoma County Tourism are following their lead.  In August 2014, Sonoma County Tourism launched Sustainable Tourism Week to educate our hospitality industry partners on what they can do to improve sustainability practices in their respective businesses.” - Ken Fischang, President & CEO, Sonoma County Tourism



I think we need to take a page from Phoenix and other cities that have great way to capture the rain that does fall.  Rainwater catchment should be standard for all buildings.  Landscape water should come from that alone. Unless water is being used for inside the home, crops, livestock or publicly used greens (and even the greens can be watered with grey water), it should be irrigated with grey water captured from the home/business.

Karen Giovanni