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Our County by Efren Carrillo - September 2015


Our County by Efren Carrillo - September 2015

by Efren Carrillo

In the next few weeks, over 10,000 property owners in Sonoma County will be receiving a letter from the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board). Property owners in the Dutch Bill Creek, Green Valley Creek, Mark West Creek, and Mill Creek watersheds will receive the official notice, which requires the property owner to provide information on the source of their water and estimate of their water use.

If you reside in one of these watersheds, you have already received letters from the Water Board about public meetings which were held in July. It is CRITICAL that you retain the letter, and closely follow the instructions within. All property owners, residential as well as agricultural properties, are required to detail their water use.

The Water Board is requiring you to fill out an online form – so if you lack internet access, you will need to go to your local public library ( – WITHIN 30 days of receiving the notice. Computers are also available at the North Coast Regional Quality Control Board office, by appointment only. Each letter contains a property specific identification code and password, which will be required in order to access the form and fill it out online. At this writing, we have not had access to the form, or information that will be sought by the Water Board. Water Board staff will be available – by phone (leave a message) or e-mail – to answer questions and help people provide the required information.

Failure to provide the information can subject property owners to a $500 per day fine.

There are separate forms for each type of water source. If you have a well, you would fill out the groundwater diversion form. If you also divert water from a river or stream, you would also need to file a surface water diversion form. If you are served by a water supplier or district, there is a form for that. If your property is within the watershed, but undeveloped, there’s a form for that too. 

Due to the devastating impacts of the drought to the fisheries within the creeks, portions of each of these watersheds (critical habitat areas) are subject to enhanced water use prohibitions which went into effect in early July. These include a prohibition against using drinking quality water for watering lawns and ornamental turf. Gray water, rainwater, recycled and imported water can be used to keep your lawn green, but not drinking water. Within the critical areas, no water can be used for washing cars, filling ponds, cleaning sidewalks or driveways, or watering other plants except between 8pm and 8am.

Unfortunately, this information and any action taken as a result of this data will not come in time for the juvenile fish that are currently stranded in our creeks and streams. Fortunately, some generous and creative people are using their water to add extra volume to the parched dry creeks in rural Sonoma County. A couple of private property owners have been releasing water from reservoirs into Porter Creek and Green Valley Creek. In Camp Meeker, the Camp Meeker Recreation and Park District will be releasing 2700 gallons per hour into Dutch Bill Creek over the next few months, saving juvenile salmon that are languishing in pools waiting for flow. This collaborative and constructive effort will make a significant difference in this year’s survival rate for salmon on Dutch Bill Creek. Here’s hoping the Porter Creek and Green Valley Creek efforts, while smaller, will make a difference too.

Water Education gets a Boost

On a more positive note relating to water, we celebrated the ribbon cutting for the Sonoma County Water Agency’s (SCWA) beautiful new Water Education Center near Wohler Bridge. The Water Education program provides a rich learning experience for over 10,000 students each year who will now have the opportunity to use the new lab and classroom. In addition to hands on science, the setting is spectacular, backed by a rock wall and fronted by a redwood grove along the river. 

Students will take a beautiful hike along the Russian River to SCWA’s water collectors and obtain water samples. Adjacent to the collectors is an exciting new project that will replace our inflatable dam and fish ladders. The new fish ladder will contain a viewing gallery where students and scientists alike will be able to view fish migrating upstream. This is an exciting time for water educators and our community – and our water agency leadership and water contractors are to be congratulated for their commitment to our children.