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Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County
Round THREE: May 2015

I continue to be awed by how much people pour their hearts and souls into their answers.  Once again, I feel honored to have been able to bear witness to the deep concern and caring that people have for their Sonoma County! 

Here are LINKS to previous Sonoma County interview articles:

Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County - Round ONE

Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County - Round TWO

Into the Future - Judie Messier Interviews Sonoma County

 

WHO GOT INTERVIEWED IN ROUND THREE May 18-22, 2015.

Interviews are posted below in the following order:

Brock Dolman, Water Institute Director, Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (46)

Caitlin Cornwall, Biologist, Research Program Manager, Sonoma Ecology Center (57)

Carla Howell, Executive Director, Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce (54)

Carol Russell, Council Member, City of Cloverdale (50)

Dr. Laura A. Watt, Professor, Environmental Studies & Planning, Sonoma State University (43)

Evan Wiig, The Farmers Guild (49)

Evelina ‘MayaRose’ Molina (55)

Jerry Allen, President, Sebastopol Grange (47)

Jesus Guzman, Graton Day Labor Center (44)

Josho Somine, Site Designer, Permaculture Design, Project Manager, Merge Studio, Sebastopol (59)

Leonard Diggs, Manager, Shone Farm, Santa Rosa Junior College (53)

Letitia Hanke, Spokesperson, North Bay Black Chamber of Commerce; CEO/President, ARS Roofing (56)

Luca Zanin, President, Bennett Valley Cellars (58)

Michelle Heston, Regional Director of Public Relations, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa (45)

Richard Retecki, Board Member, Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation (51)

Sandi Potter, Environmental Review & Comprehensive Planning Division Manager, Permit & Resource Management Department (PRMD), Santa Rosa. (42)

Tara Smith, Tara Firma Farms, Petaluma (52)

Tiffany Renée, President/Treasurer/Co-founder, Petaluma Grange (48)

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE ROUND THREE INTERVIEWS

In this summary, I will provide some representative answers to each question – and will hopefully tease you to read each individual interview. 

The first question asked folks what was their relationship to Sonoma County.

Many saw their relationship to Sonoma County in terms of how long they have lived here – some having been born and raised here; others having moved here.  Many spoke of Sonoma County as a home that they loved.  And some saw their relationship to Sonoma County in terms of the role that they play in Sonoma County.

- I grew up here.  In my twenties, I moved away from California, but in my thirties, I realized I wanted to be here, live here, because it was deep in my bones. (57)

- I am a transplant of 6 years.  It has been a gracious welcoming into the richest food shed in the world and I am honored to be here in support of retaining, growing, and supporting the local food economy. (52)

- My dad owned a house out at Bodega Bay.  Growing up, we would come through Petaluma from Fair Oaks.  I fell in love with the area.  We spent many weekends traipsing around, exploring, crabbing, and eating.  It’s just a magical place with many fond memories of my family. (48)

- I have worked in Sonoma County for nine years now, as a professor at Sonoma State – and have lived in the county for six years.  My entire life has been spent in the Bay Area, though! (43)

 

When asked how they felt about this interview, their answers spanned a full range of feelings.

Many felt honored to have been asked to be interviewed.  Many were happy to be participating in something that they hoped would contribute positively towards resolving the water issue in Sonoma County.  Others expressed feelings ranging from “fine” to “excited” to “grateful” to “willing and able” to “A little awkward.  I’m used to typing on a keyboard & being able to re-arrange my words until they’re just right” (57) to “Optimistically ambivalent.” (59)

 

When asked next how they saw the water situation in Sonoma County right now, their answers revealed a wealth of mindful and detailed consideration of the water situation.

A number of folks saw the situation as a challenge, an opportunity, or both.  While some felt that the situation in Sonoma County was not as bad as it is in other parts of the state, all expressed the opinion, in one way or another, that the water system in Sonoma County is in dire straits and that everyone in Sonoma County has to change how they think and act with respect to water.

- I see both a challenge and an opportunity.  We are being challenged by the drought, which is directly related to climate change, and this is an opportunity for us to change from past practices & policies towards more innovative conservation practices. (44)

- It’s not good; however, when I look around at other parts of the state, I think that we are lucky to have at least some water reserves right now.  Being at a college farm, I think it is appropriate to say that this is a teaching moment; unfortunately, the issues are often a toxic blend of politics, economic interest, and environmental tug of war. (53)

- Sonoma county, like much of the state, is deep within an historic drought, the consequences of which we’re only just beginning to truly grapple with.  Snowpack is at an all time low, canals have run dry, aquifers are under increasing pressure, and tensions are running high in the local political sphere.  For those who depend on such natural resources for their livelihood – farmers and ranchers in particular – it’s an unfortunate turn of events.  But these challenges also force us to examine our food system, innovate to conserve, and hopefully open up dialogue that will inform the general public on the systems – both natural and man-made – on which they rely. (49)

- Critical, but hopeful.  It’s the kind of problem that will drive solutions – comprehensive, county-wide & local.  A chance for community creativity. (51)

 

When asked how they felt about the current water situation in Sonoma County, their answers revealed a range of feelings.

Many expressed concern, sadness, and frustration.  Some were confident, hopeful, optimistic not only that there are solutions, but also that Sonoma County residents can work together for the future.

- I feel alarmed and concerned, yet hopeful that the people of Sonoma County will rise to the challenge. (44)

- I feel sad, frustrated and many times hopeless and disconnected. (55)

- Energized!  Very hopeful, too.  Thanks to what I’m seeing in Cloverdale (both from the Council and our residents and businesses).  We’ve conserved as much as 35% year-over-year!  In fact, in 2014, we declared a Stage 2 Emergency – we didn’t wait for the state! (50)

 

When asked what would be the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County, their answers revealed a focused set of potential worst possible outcomes.

Many said that the worst possible outcome would be the ruination of both the natural environment and the human environment of Sonoma County.  Some were concerned about the potential for harsh governmental intervention, and many were concerned that conflict could emerge.

- In regards to not having enough water, the worst outcome is becoming a dust bowl with ghost towns.  While I think we still have time to prevent an outcome like this, changes need to be happening on a greater scale.  People need to feel a greater sense of responsibility to saving water.  It should be a patriotic duty to reduce and re-use water at home.  In regards to infrastructure issues, I don’t think people realize how critical this is or how expensive it continues to be, the longer we put it off. (48)

- We can so damage our economy, our environment, and our health that it is irreparable – or close to it. (50)

- Bankruptcy.  I mean bankrupt in the moral sense & the economic sense.  We would have thrown out our birthright & wrecked this beautiful place. (57)

- I see the results of fighting over a limited resource and the blunt force that governmental agencies can bring to bear in these situations.  If we don’t confront our water situation with thoughtful planning and broad community engagement, we may see water hoarding, water scalping, and fear-based water allocations. (53)

- The drought endures while resulting conflict between various interest groups distracts and disempowers those seeking long-term, sustainable solutions.  Ignorance and indifference proliferate, our agricultural economy crumbles, and we are forced to import food, raising costs and growing more reliant on foreign practices of food production, the likes of which we have little to no control over. (49)

 

When asked how they felt about the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County,  their answers expressed a full range of emotions.

Some were “worried,” “concerned,” “sad & frustrated.”  “I feel numb – confused and uncertain about the future for coming generations.” (55)  Some felt optimistic “that those conversations are starting, at least.” (43)  Others felt confident because “Sonoma County is filled with smart, dedicated people who will drive change and figure out solutions.  Per capita, compared to other places, there are more folks working to conserve and enhance our resources.  Water is the new ‘gold,’ precious and limited.” (51)

 

When asked what would be the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County, their answers presented an equally focused set of potential best possible outcomes.

While some detailed specific improvements that they felt needed to be made, many wanted the people of Sonoma County to work together to build a joint vision, and in so doing, to serve as a model to the world.  And many wanted cooperation about water issues to expand to cooperation about many issues important to Sonoma County.

- The best possible outcome would be a change in consciousness and practice in the use of our most valuable abiotic resource – water.  We cannot afford to do business as usual.  We must understand ours is a shared fate, as well as a shared sacrifice.  I’m given hope by the recent work at the Graton Day Labor Center.  We partnered with the Permaculture Skills Center to provide job training opportunities for day laborers using ecologically centered landscaping practices.  Last month we installed a rainwater catchment system and only a few days ago sheet mulched.  We also planted lots of fruit trees! (44)

- The best possible outcome of working together is that our communities can “think like a watershed” and then act like a “basin of relations” whereby we all begin to realize we live in these shared basins called watersheds and from ridgeline to rivermouth, we have to collectively come together to re-think and retrofit our watersheds to be resilient and regenerative for life. (46)

- An abundant and resilient local economy and regional ecology, which could be a model for the state, nation, and even the world at large. (59)

- We develop a sustainable water plan, with good conservation, catchment, re-use, restoring lakes and wetlands, transitioning from water flush toilets, water-thrifty agriculture.  Best of all, the cooperation around water can lead to more cooperation on other crucial community issues like food, energy use, transportation, garden development, health care – the list goes on. (47)

 

When asked what were all the reasons people would give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome, their answers ranged from characteristics of the situation to characteristics of the people.

- Ecological illiteracy is a pretty good reason that limits our capacity to achieve resilient watersheds – considering the epidemic we face with a deep lack of working knowledge and functional relationship with how life systems work on planet Water and thus here in Sonoma County.  We must bring life literacy to land use and planning. (46)

- Too expensive.  Too complicated.  Not enough enforcement.  Too much regulation.  Not my problem. (54)

- 1) People just don’t really care.  2) People aren’t taking the drought seriously.  3) There’s not enough information about it. (56)

- We can listen to the reasons or excuses people provide, but the reasons are very simple.  We have not hit a “pain point” to the extent of warranting change.  Behaviors and attitudes have a tendency to stay the same until those very behaviors and attitudes cause us pain.  Without pain, there is no incentive to change. (58)

 

When asked about the new beliefs and behaviors folks would need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen, their answers ranged from beliefs and behavior about the environment to beliefs and behaviors about people.

- People will need to value water as the scarce resource that it is.  We will need to see the connection between rainfall, stream flow, tap water, and waste water, and protect the amount and quality of water at all steps of the hydrologic cycle.  We’ll need to see that water use is a critical factor in almost every aspect of our daily life and make changes to use this precious resource thoughtfully. (42)

- 1. We live in an era of climate change and we must adapt cooperatively to survive.  2. We can use less water, resources, energy, etc., and still have a good life.  3. Gandhi “Be the change we want to see in the world.”  We have to shift to taking personal responsibility for the shifts in beliefs and behaviors, not waiting for someone else to do it.  4.  Shift from focusing on blaming the “bad guys” to finding ways to join together in common concerns. (47)

- The concept that an individual is most fulfilled not as an autonomous unit, but as part of a larger integrated whole picture.  The old saying that ‘no man is an island’ is more true than ever as we run out of extra space and resources on the planet.  Self-moderation within a mindful context will become requisite. (59)

 

When asked about strategies and actions that would reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen, their answers ranged from strategies and actions about the environment to strategies and actions about people.

- Education.  Best practices.  Long-term planning. (45)

- Manage all water, in all parts of the water cycle, under one roof, for each watershed in Sonoma County.  Manage to a set of targets that represent a resilient, water-abundant community.  These targets will include minimum streamflows & groundwater levels that sustain water-dependent species & habitats & guaranteed baseline water supply that’s affordable for poor households.  After these non-negotiables are met, then we’d do well to explore more market-driven ways to price & distribute & re-use water.  And, of course, we have to manage with future climate in mind, not just past patterns. (57)

- Hmmm.  Not entirely sure what’s meant here?  Compromise is based on a willingness to listen to others, consider their perspectives, and discuss and debate the possible options – so that seems like a useful strategy.  Not sure of specific actions; will depend entirely on circumstances. (43)

- Leadership coming together to message to the public the critical nature of what we face, and draw all community members to participate in Town Hall education that in turn leads to action.  All members of the community coming together to discuss, plan, commit, and execute the next 50 to 100 years. (52)

 

When asked, if folks worked together now to confront the water situation, what would be their vision of Sonoma County in 20 years, their answers revealed a shared vision of social, environmental and economic vitality.

- That vision is of a county that made an opportunity of catastrophe, that became an exemplar of community resilience.  Other counties will look to Sonoma for ways to handle their own crisis and manage resources in ways that recognize triple-bottom line economics.  Sonoma’s will be a story of how environmentalists sat across the table from wineries to tackle the problem, how policymakers expanded their goal of increased GDP to include equity growth, real innovation, and the production of healthy, fair and just food. (49)

- If we work together NOW, Sonoma County can be a role model, coming up with a duplicatable system and/or process than can be adopted by other counties.  We have done it before; we can do it again.  In 20 years, I see that we will be telling stories to the little ones who are now 2 or 3 about how we came together, rose above our prejudices, all the ism’s – racism, classism, sexism – and transformed a destiny of near-term extinction and war to providing good food, clean water, the amazing life they enjoy and are charged with paying it forward to future generations. (55)

 

When asked how they felt about this vision, their answers revealed that they felt hopeful, excited, optimistic about their vision..!

- Positive.  Californians are innovators. (45)

- It feels like a place I’d be honored to live in, a place that would inspire other communities to also become water-rich and water-secure. (57)

- Utopia. (58)

- I feel hopeful about these possibilities.  As the awareness of our situation in the state and global contexts spreads to more of the populace, we should be able to manifest the collective will to implement a critical mass of the essential practices. (59)

 

When asked what would be the first step that would need to be taken to realize that vision, their answers offered a wide range of ideas.

Some felt that Sonoma County was already taking first steps towards realizing the vision.  Many stressed the need for education of everyone about all aspects of the water situation, and the need for opportunities for people to come together to craft a joint vision.  Others mentioned specific water practices that could be implemented.

- We are taking the first steps.  People are conserving water and we’re having these conversations.  Each of us every day can take small steps to conserve water.  Collectively we can work together to make bigger changes. (42)

- Educate ourselves as to the problem.  Research, find out what others are doing.  Become vocal and involved.  Break down the “critical density” of business, agriculture, government, and individual barriers to find solutions.  Maintain city-centered growth.  Relax government rules related to water collection, re-use, Class K housing, etc.  Join a group such as the Grange to heighten individual & group awareness about our water resources. (51)

- Willingness to work together toward a solution.  It can’t only be decided or changed through politics. (54)

- People need to connect the fact that land use is water use.  Everything we do affects the quantity and quality of our waters.  If what you do pollutes water, then it would have to change.  This means keeping fine sediment out of our creeks which is a critical issue throughout the county.  People need to use less water.  What they do use needs to be done so as efficiently as possible and at every opportunity water re-use needs to be implemented.  Then we can work on creative supply augmentation tactics like roofwater harvesting and stormwater recharge.  We need to have a pro-active beaver stewardship plan statewide and locally to allow this keystone species to do their work of storing and cleaning water, recharging groundwater, storing sediment, sequestering carbon in wetlands, helping recover endangered salmonids, making wildlife habitat, beautiful landscapes and all for less money and better than we can. (46)

 

When asked what was something they could do right now to make that vision happen, responses ranged from what they were already doing to what they could start doing right away.

- “When the student is ready, leadership shows up.”  We are doing it here at Tara Firma Farms.  We have educated over 10k community members through free weekend tours.  We discuss water, soil, food, and critical state of affairs.  We are readying the students. (52)

- I’m doing this interview for the Gazette.  I have started my own bilingual internet radio station, blog, social media, You Tube programming that will be dedicated to alerting, educating, teaching, empowering people.  And I’m going to have a block party to get all my neighbors on board. (55)

- What we can do now is educate each other not simply on the facts, but on each other’s perspectives, as unique and sometimes opposing as they might seem. (49)

- Turn off the tap!  Do what you can do & do it now! (50)

- Wearing my Ecology Center hat, I can keep working with our partners on these issues.  Now is a time of great opportunity.  Wearing my own personal hat, I can finally install a few greywater lines at my house.  The raspberries will love it. (57)

 

And finally, folks were asked how they felt about the interview now?

Many felt that they had participated in something that could make a difference.

- It was great to talk about this really important issue.  Thanks for the opportunity. (42)

- Just fine!  Water management is such a key issue, I’m glad you are documenting all these diverse perspectives! (43)

- Good.  I feel glad to talk about things that are aligned with my passions. (47)

- Inspired and motivated!  To quote Marie Forleo, “Everything is figure-out-able.” (48)

- Curious to know how so much info will be synthesized in ways that can either be clearly shared or else used to begin the conversation I’ve mentioned above. (49)

- My first impressions & enthusiasm were justified! (50)

- Inspired to go to work. (53)

- I feel great!  I was a little bit nervous and scared because I’m not a “water expert,” but I have come to realize that in just being awake and conscious, someone who really cares and is not afraid to speak Truth To Power, I have a lot to contribute and both little and big ideas can matter.  I feel a little less stressed about the whole situation, at least for now. (55)

- I’m still having fun!  I think the questions are interesting and really making me think more about it. (56)

 


 

ROUND THREE Participants

Brock Dolman, Water Institute Director, Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (46)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

I have lived and worked in Sonoma County since 1994 and have grown deeply rooted in this amazing place with such wonderful communities.

How do you feel about this interview?

I am happy to participate in this interview as it appears to be a very interesting project.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

While Sonoma County is blessed with significant natural water resources, unfortunately the legacy of the land use patterns and practices from the arrival of the first settlers up to today has significantly deranged the condition of all our watersheds, Laguna, rivers, and coast and groundwater, both qualitatively and quantitatively.  

How do you feel about it?

All our watersheds are variously listed on the 303d Impaired Waterbody list of the SWRCB and all three of our native salmon/trout species are threatened and/or endangered with extinction.  Water never lies!  “Water is the principal measure of how we live on the land” (Luna Leopold).  With that in mind, I feel that we have a significant need for humility and need for restitution with all of our watersheds.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

Increasingly polluted surface and ground water.  Increasingly over-drafted groundwater basins with local wells drying up.  Continued growth of urban/suburban/rural residences and agriculture will continue unabated to the ongoing detriment of our public trust resources of water and other life forms that depend on it.  Salmon extinction is an indicator for us that we have a big problem, and not a nuisance that should be simply stated as an issue between “fish and farmers.”

How do you feel about it?

I feel concerned about the future of our water situation as human and non-human communities all depend on water for survival.  No water – No life.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

The best possible outcome of working together is that our communities can “think like a watershed” and then act like a “basin of relations” whereby we all begin to realize we live in these shared basins called watersheds and from ridgeline to rivermouth, we have to collectively come together to re-think and retrofit our watersheds to be resilient and regenerative for life.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

Ecological illiteracy is a pretty good reason that limits our capacity to achieve resilient watersheds – considering the epidemic we face with a deep lack of working knowledge and functional relationship with how life systems work on planet Water and thus here in Sonoma County.  We must bring life literacy to land use and planning.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

You live on planet Water where life is endemic in the known universe!  We must begin to believe and act as if we are a part of and not apart from the living world.  We then need to stop with our ways of life that are not conducive to the ways of life.  Stop anti-biotic behaviors and move into pro-biotic, meaning truly pro-life behaviors.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

We need land use policies and market signals that support sustainable practices and tax toxic practices.  We need to legalize sustainability in such a way that the cost of doing business must account for the externalized costs on the whole system.

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

We would have all our year-round streams flowing with enough water in the dry season to support all aquatic life with appropriate human use.  The water quality would be such, because of how the uplands function, that you could be confident in drinking straight from any surface water.  That would be a radical measure of success.

How do you feel about that vision?

While highly improbable, “if” it was to be so, I would feel over-joyed to live in a place with pristine waters and creeks again so filled with salmon you could imagine walking on their backs.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?  What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

People need to connect the fact that land use is water use.  Everything we do affects the quantity and quality of our waters.  If what you do pollutes water, then it would have to change.  This means keeping fine sediment out of our creeks which is a critical issue throughout the county.  People need to use less water.  What they do use needs to be done so as efficiently as possible and at every opportunity water re-use needs to be implemented.  Then we can work on creative supply augmentation tactics like roofwater harvesting and stormwater recharge.  We need to have a pro-active beaver stewardship plan statewide and locally to allow this keystone species to do their work of storing and cleaning water, recharging groundwater, storing sediment, sequestering carbon in wetlands, helping recover endangered salmonids, making wildlife habitat, beautiful landscapes and all for less money and better than we can.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

Chipper.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.” 

 

Brock Dolman

 

Caitlin Cornwall, Biologist, Research Program Manager, Sonoma Ecology Center (57)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

I grew up here.  In my twenties, I moved away from California, but in my thirties, I realized I wanted to be here, live here, because it was deep in my bones.

How do you feel about this interview?

A little awkward.  I’m used to typing on a keyboard & being able to re-arrange my words until they’re just right.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

We’re finally grappling – emotionally , scientifically, & policy-wise – with the fact that we’ve been badly managing water for many decades.

How do you feel about it?

I’m grieved over the possibly permanent losses of beautiful water-dependent places like riverside forests, salmon & birds, wetlands.  On the other hand, I’m more hopeful now that we are motivated to clean up our act & manage water responsibly.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

Bankruptcy.  I mean bankrupt in the moral sense & the economic sense.  We would have thrown out our birthright & wrecked this beautiful place.

How do you feel about it?

Pretty strongly.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

Pride & security.  The satisfying feeling that we overcame difficulties in order to safeguard our economy, the beauty of this place, & the pleasure & well-being of future generations.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

People argue that private rights to land & water trump the public good; that their right to make money, now or in the future, supersedes the rights of other people & species, now and in the future.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

IT’S ALL CONNECTED!  It’s all one water, one community.  Action or inaction in one part of the system has an effect throughout the rest of the system.  Also, we need to believe that our rules & laws really can reflect our deepest held values & hopes for the future.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Manage all water, in all parts of the water cycle, under one roof, for each watershed in Sonoma County.  Manage to a set of targets that represent a resilient, water-abundant community.  These targets will include minimum streamflows & groundwater levels that sustain water-dependent species & habitats & guaranteed baseline water supply that’s affordable for poor households.  After these non-negotiables are met, then we’d do well to explore more market-driven ways to price & distribute & re-use water.  And, of course, we have to manage with future climate in mind, not just past patterns.

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

Big dense jungles of riparian forest along streams, chock full of wildlife, thriving rivers & creeks, wetlands bursting with life after their water supply is restored, massive re-use of water at all scales, no lawns except where people actually use them, a different set of cultural norms about efficient use of water, probably a higher price on water, probably a water subsidy for farmers growing food, & a contented sense of water security across our communities.

How do you feel about that vision?

It feels like a place I’d be honored to live in, a place that would inspire other communities to also become water-rich and water-secure.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

Take the new groundwater sustainability legislation as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our water thinking & water management, so it’s not just groundwater that is managed responsibly, but all water – in pipes, in the ground, & on the surface.

What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

Wearing my Ecology Center hat, I can keep working with our partners on these issues.  Now is a time of great opportunity.  Wearing my own personal hat, I can finally install a few greywater lines at my house.  The raspberries will love it.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

This is a great topic to get people talking about.  I hope it helps people be open to change.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Carla Howell, Executive Director, Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce (54)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

Executive Director, Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce.

How do you feel about this interview?

I feel fine about this interview.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

The situation isn’t dire, but it could be if we don’t start paying attention.

How do you feel about it?

Frustrated.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

Less water available, so no more housing, the loss of water recreation, and the obliteration of agriculture.

How do you feel about it?

Frustrated and sad.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

A growing appreciation for a finite resource.  Clean water is a precious gift that we too often take for granted.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

Too expensive.  Too complicated.  Not enough enforcement.  Too much regulation.  Not my problem.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

We share the planet and its resources.  We can’t live only for today.  Sometimes there aren’t easy solutions and solutions might be not only hard, they might be painful.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Willingness to listen and to hear.  Teaching our children our new beliefs.  Celebrating our new found beliefs and successes.

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

We will have clean, healthy water for all of our needs.

How do you feel about that vision?

It will come true.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

Willingness to work together toward a solution.  It can’t only be decided or changed through politics.

What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

Learn as much as possible about solutions; share my knowledge; and listen.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

Very positive.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.” 


 

Carol Russell, Council Member, City of Cloverdale (50)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

Council member, City of Cloverdale.

How do you feel about this interview?

Intrigued and honored.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

We’re in the midst of a real challenge, with no end in sight.  However, as with all challenges, it is also an opportunity to create a better future and to bring us together – all across our state.

How do you feel about it?

Energized!  Very hopeful, too.  Thanks to what I’m seeing in Cloverdale (both from the Council and our residents and businesses).  We’ve conserved as much as 35% year-over-year!  In fact, in 2014, we declared a Stage 2 Emergency – we didn’t wait for the state!

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

We can so damage our economy, our environment, and our health that it is irreparable – or close to it.

How do you feel about it?

I don’t believe we will let that happen – by “we,” I mean all of us!  This is our home, the place where we invest not only our money, but also our lives.  So, to sum up, I’m confident we can deal with this drought and the next one.  We don’t have any other option.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

First, that we do what needs to be done to develop and maintain a 21st century water catchment/collection, treatment, distribution and conservation system.  Second, that we keep working together to solve other problems.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

It’s too expensive, too tough to put politics and special interests aside – yada, yada!

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

I think most of us already have the beliefs and have practiced the behaviors needed (at least the core ones).  We’ve cooperated, thought “outside the box,” and had a sense of being part of a community – if only as a family member or friend.  We only need to let those beliefs and ways of being take hold and overcome our fears or selfishness.  We’ve all got these good things in us – just let them out!

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Number one is the recognition that there is a severe problem and that some old habits have to change.  Making ourselves aware of all the simple things we can do to conserve water (and save money, too!).  Also, learning more about how water affects our economy, environment, and personal lives so we can better evaluate what local, state & federal governments are doing and so we can better make our own views heard.

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

Our County is thriving!  We have developed a true water master plan and have on-going education and communications with all Sonomans & businesses.  Most of all, our infrastructure is up-to-date, because, just like our nation, our county’s future depends on 2 things: great people and superb infrastructure...  We have the people – we need the infrastructure!  I can see us setting the standard for our state.

How do you feel about that vision?

I’m excited and very motivated to help make it a reality.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

Again, first, accept the water crisis as real and recurring.

What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

Turn off the tap!  Do what you can do & do it now!

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

My first impressions & enthusiasm were justified!

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Dr. Laura A. Watt, Professor, Environmental Studies & Planning, Sonoma State University (43)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

I have worked in Sonoma County for nine years now, as a professor at Sonoma State – and have lived in the county for six years.  My entire life has been spent in the Bay Area, though!

How do you feel about this interview?

And happy to contribute to the project.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now?  

 Ironically, Sonoma County is in better shape water-wise than most of the rest of the state.  We are relatively water-independent and we’re lucky to get decent rainfall this winter.  I still feel concerned for the state as a whole, and our role in it.  Water is likely to be the most central issue in our state’s politics for years to come.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

I can think of several “worst” outcomes – for instance, possibly having North Coast water “stolen” for the Central Valley or other areas, but also the possibility of confrontation and hostility among different water user groups (such as agriculture vs. municipalities) here in the County.  We need to be realistic about both water supply and demand, both here and elsewhere.  

How do you feel about it?

I’m optimistic that those conversations are starting, at least.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

A realistic and pragmatic approach to managing our water resources and needs long term, not just year to year – i.e., don’t suddenly change approaches in wetter years!

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

All!  All is impossible to capture here, but I expect to see economic arguments (“it will cost too much”), historic arguments (“my group has always had this amount of water access”), values arguments (“my preferred use is more important than yours”), and particularly complexities of managing use of both surface flow and ground water.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

People will need to be willing to compromise, as is the case in all political debates, and to start valuing water as an exhaustible resource rather than presuming that it will “always be there.”  They will also need to maintain awareness of water issues through all the climatic variability we have from year to year.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Hmmm.  Not entirely sure what’s meant here?  Compromise is based on a willingness to listen to others, consider their perspectives, and discuss and debate the possible options – so that seems like a useful strategy.  Not sure of specific actions; will depend entirely on circumstances.

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

Sonoma County will undoubtedly change over the next 20 years – climate change plus shifting demographics of this state will impose change from the outside, regardless.  But both agriculture and natural resources (both environmental quality and outdoor recreation) depend heavily on finding solutions to water issues, and also both shape out county’s overall character – so hopefully those will remain balanced and mutually supportive.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

Recognizing that agriculture and environmental concerns are inter-related, rather than oppositional or either/or.  

 What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

I like to think that many of my students are getting this message from my classes, and as they move into the county’s workforce, they will take that attitude and insight with them.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

Just fine!  Water management is such a key issue, I’m glad you are documenting all these diverse perspectives!

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Evan Wiig, The Farmers Guild (49)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

I am an active community member and resident of Sonoma County.

How do you feel about this interview?

Just fine!

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now?  How do you feel about it?

Sonoma county, like much of the state, is deep within an historic drought, the consequences of which we’re only just beginning to truly grapple with.  Snowpack is at an all time low, canals have run dry, aquifers are under increasing pressure, and tensions are running high in the local political sphere.  For those who depend on such natural resources for their livelihood – farmers and ranchers in particular – it’s an unfortunate turn of events.  But these challenges also force us to examine our food system, innovate to conserve, and hopefully open up dialogue that will inform the general public on the systems – both natural and man-made – on which they rely.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

The drought endures while resulting conflict between various interest groups distracts and disempowers those seeking long-term, sustainable solutions.  Ignorance and indifference proliferate, our agricultural economy crumbles, and we are forced to import food, raising costs and growing more reliant on foreign practices of food production, the likes of which we have little to no control over. 

How do you feel about it?

How do I feel about it?  I have faith that we’ll come to our senses before that unfolds.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

An increasingly informed public learns about water conservation techniques from xeroscaping lawns to building soil structure on farms.  Our county policy makers respond to implementing programs that recognize and reward these practices.  Meanwhile, the notion of an interconnected system on which we all depend results in a more cohesive understanding of other challenges that require less individualistic maneuvering and more collective, community-based action.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

Some might say that human nature is inherently self-motivated and the general public won’t be able to give up individualistic convenience for the sake of a greater good.  And that business is business, so don’t expect any concessions from capitalism.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

While there are hundreds of ways to conserve and better utilize water resources, the most challenging beliefs and behaviors will be those such as communication, collaboration, listening, and understanding complex systems beyond our own sphere of influence.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Regarding water conservation, it will require that we amplify the current efforts of existing organizations – Daily Acts, on the residential side, and local RCD’s on the agricultural side.  Then policymakers will need to create real incentives for participation, along with general promotion.  Strategies for communication and collaboration will require the careful facilitation of interest groups and the recognition of economic constraints but avoidable environmental constraints as well.

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

That vision is of a county that made an opportunity of catastrophe, that became an exemplar of community resilience.  Other counties will look to Sonoma for ways to handle their own crisis and manage resources in ways that recognize triple-bottom line economics.  Sonoma’s will be a story of how environmentalists sat across the table from wineries to tackle the problem, how policymakers expanded their goal of increased GDP to include equity growth, real innovation, and the production of healthy, fair and just food.  

How do you feel about that vision?

That’s a vision I’m willing to fight for.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

It’ll need to begin with framing a conversation so that all those who’ll need to included are understood, given a fair voice and intentional about finding solutions, even if that process is challenging.

What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

What we can do now is educate each other not simply on the facts, but on each other’s perspectives, as unique and sometimes opposing as they might seem.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

Curious to know how so much info will be synthesized in ways that can either be clearly shared or else used to begin the conversation I’ve mentioned above.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Evelina ‘MayaRose’ Molina (55)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

Resident; public opinion leader.

How do you feel about this interview?

Grateful; blessed; hopeful.  I feel “seen.”

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

I see the situation as “dire” because there exists a bubble of “denial” of what’s really happening, mostly because this is a “privileged” county that believes if it’s not happening “here” or to “us,” there’s no problem.  I think Sonoma County residents take for granted what millions of others of our global brothers and sisters can’t, which is turn on a faucet and get clean, potable water.

How do you feel about it?

I feel sad, frustrated and many times hopeless and disconnected.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

A NASA scientist has warned if we don’t implement aggressive “life or death” water crisis management, we may have 1 year of water; with an aggressive approach, it may be 3 years.  Our state’s and nation’s food, economic, energy, water, and national security is a risk.  As a physical substance, water is a sacred source that makes life on Earth possible.  Our shaman (medicine elders) warn us that water is considered “un poderio” – a great power, a force that embodies spirit that may be helpful or harmful.  The National Academy of Sciences has done a study of 8,000 wars over a period of 500 years.  It has been concluded that water shortage played a far greater role as a catalyst than previously supposed.  They have also stated “We are on alert, because [water] resource shortage is the main cause of war even in civilized nations.  Human beings will definitely continue to have conflicts over the current global water crisis on a much larger scale than ever seen in the history of mankind.”  Based on this, I do not think California will be spared; the 1% will leave, relocate to other states or countries and leave those that can’t to suffer behind.

How do you feel about it?

I feel numb – confused and uncertain about the future for coming generations.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

The best possible outcome is that we become a more united community; stronger together; and if the bottom falls out, we go out together with dignity, and peace of mind that we did the best we could; we loved each other the most we could and no one or no community was sacrificed in the process for another.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

1) The water problem crisis is too big.  2) It would take a lot of work; we don’t have time.  3) Those who do have the power & control the system obviously don’t care, so why should I?

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

New belief is that they have to come to the realization that greater empires such as Egypt, Greece, Rome have fallen.  This country & state is in a very precarious situation.  A behavior is to AWAKEN, learn everything you possibly can, make the connections throughout history, globally, nationally, and in our very neighborhoods that everything is connected.  Folks will need to begin to see each other in ways that have never happened before, especially in Sonoma County.  People will have to take personal responsibility for what happens or does not happen, for better or worse.  We need a long-term and short-term revamping of the whole water system with more decentralized community control.  A grassroots movement that critically analyzes our county’s overall agricultural efficiency.  Questioning what should we really be growing.  Do we really need another winery that exports and contaminates our local water resources one grape & wine bottle at a time, or should we be increasing and converting wineries into farms and gardens that produce local food and keep our local water resources here at home for the people who live and work here.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Latinos are currently 30% of California population; in Sonoma County that number is 25% and in 2030 expected to reach 41%.  My neighborhood of Roseland has the largest population of children and labor force, yet we have no library, no community center, no access to natural, organic, non-GMO foods, and are not remotely taking significant action as it relates to water conservation.  Only 50% of students are graduating high school and Latino youth are 70-80% of child prisoners.  This is a shameful state of affairs for such a “progressive” county.  Instead of throwing Latino children into jail, they can be a large and mighty force to educate the Spanish speakers about what is happening; why it’s happening; what can and needs to be done; and hold families accountable.  They can be paid stipends and offered tutoring and support services so that they become positive contributors to our community – “Water Warriors for Peace” instead of fodder for the industrialized prison system.

Gated community residents need to come out and stop being afraid of “the other.”  Work side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder and devote time & resources to the education and empowerment of our community as a whole.

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

If we work together NOW, Sonoma County can be a role model, coming up with a duplicatable system and/or process than can be adopted by other counties.  We have done it before; we can do it again.  In 20 years, I see that we will be telling stories to the little ones who are now 2 or 3 about how we came together, rose above our prejudices, all the ism’s – racism, classism, sexism – and transformed a destiny of near-term extinction and war to providing good food, clean water, the amazing life they enjoy and are charged with paying it forward to future generations.

How do you feel about that vision?

I feel “TRULY HUMAN.”  

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

Massive media marketing campaign – “Emergency Call to Action” drive.  All forms of media – TV, radio, print, billboards, door-to-door, etc.  Raise awareness of the significance of this crisis.

What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

I’m doing this interview for the Gazette.  I have started my own bilingual internet radio station, blog, social media, You Tube programming that will be dedicated to alerting, educating, teaching, empowering people.  And I’m going to have a block party to get all my neighbors on board.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

I feel great!  I was a little bit nervous and scared because I’m not a “water expert,” but I have come to realize that in just being awake and conscious, someone who really cares and is not afraid to speak Truth To Power, I have a lot to contribute and both little and big ideas can matter.  I feel a little less stressed about the whole situation, at least for now.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Jerry Allen, President, Sebastopol Grange (47)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

I’ve lived here 23 years.  In Sebastopol since 1999.  I worked for Sonoma County for 21 years, supervising social workers at Children’s Protective Services.  I also was an elected trustee of the Sonoma County Retirement Plan ($2 billion plan).  I was Board Chairman for 3 of the 9 years, until I retired from Sonoma County in Dec 2012.  I am presently in private practice as a psychotherapist in Sebastopol.  I am also president of the Sebastopol Grange.  This is my 3rd one-year term (last).  I’m involved with other organizations in Sonoma County and am an active folk musician and a member of several folk bands.

How do you feel about this interview?

Fine.  Glad to do it.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

I believe we are in serious water trouble.  The drought is continuing, vineyards as well as city pumping are sucking down the aquifers.  We are in urgent need of better water catchment, rainwater catchment, and water conservation.  We need to learn to live with less water and grow crops more thriftily regarding water.

How do you feel about it?

Concerned.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

Many aquifers do not recharge quickly.  We risk long term damage to the aquifers by over-pumping.  Also, if we wait to address our unpreparedness (inadequate water catchment, etc.) until the crisis is worse, it will only be more difficult.  We risk panic conditions if the drought gets worse.

How do you feel about it?

Very concerned.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

We develop a sustainable water plan, with good conservation, catchment, re-use, restoring lakes and wetlands, transitioning from water flush toilets, water-thrifty agriculture.  Best of all, the cooperation around water can lead to more cooperation on other crucial community issues like food, energy use, transportation, garden development, health care – the list goes on.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

1. It’s too costly.  2. It will hurt businesses and drive away jobs.  3. The new ideas will limit people’s freedom to do whatever they want.  4. Technology will solve our problems eventually – i.e., desalinization.  5. There’s no water problem; we’ll be fine.  Global warming is a left wing myth to help take away American’s God-given rights.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

1. We live in an era of climate change and we must adapt cooperatively to survive.  2. We can use less water, resources, energy, etc., and still have a good life.  3. Gandhi “Be the change we want to see in the world.”  We have to shift to taking personal responsibility for the shifts in beliefs and behaviors, not waiting for someone else to do it.  4.  Shift from focusing on blaming the “bad guys” to finding ways to join together in common concerns.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

1. Adopting humility and kindness as guiding principles.  2. Implementing new ideas or good actions and promoting them so others can see for themselves that it is effective.  3. Reach broadly across the spectrum of our communities to form work-groups and committees to implement things (like water-saving/conserving projects), so that we avoid polarization.  4. Effectively use social media, Facebook, email and other marketing ideas like fundraising concerts and festivals to publicize and raise money for demonstration water projects.

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

I see Sonoma County as greener, with more ponds, lakes, low water gardens, composting toilets, fewer floods, good rainwater catchment, agri-businesses that are re-focused on growing food very thriftily regarding water.  I also see Sonoma County serving as a demonstration to other areas of how communities can come together for the common good, thriving amid adversity.  Humans have a very, very long history of cooperative adaptation.  It has gotten us through ice ages and droughts before.  We can draw on that genetic knowledge that is “in our bones” to adapt and survive together.

How do you feel about that vision?

Hopeful.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

Implement answer to Question # 7.

What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

We must thoroughly “shake off” any fatalism, depression, hopelessness, or sense that it’s too much to change, too hard, too many obstacles......  I meditate/vision/pray every morning to fire up my “mojo.”  I work with others at the Sebastopol Grange to publicize, educate, and enact change.  We show films on water, permaculture, and other key areas of change.  We will be showing “Inhabit,” a film about permaculture, in June.  We hold a monthly free class on fermentation on every third Wednesday night, to teach folks how to make health probiotic foods.  We hold lectures on groundwater issues.  We are soon going to implement rainwater catchment at the grange.  We also help with the Sebastopol Village Building Convergence, that works on building community around needed local projects.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

Good.  I feel glad to talk about things that are aligned with my passions.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Jesus Guzman, Graton Day Labor Center (44)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

I’ve called Sonoma County home for most of my life.  I came here as a child, going to K-12, and will be graduating from Sonoma State in the fall.  

How do you feel about this interview?

I feel that this interview is an opportunity to share about my community’s perspective on water.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

I see both a challenge and an opportunity.  We are being challenged by the drought, which is directly related to climate change, and this is an opportunity for us to change from past practices & policies towards more innovative conservation practices.

How do you feel about it?

I feel alarmed and concerned, yet hopeful that the people of Sonoma County will rise to the challenge.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?  How do you feel about it?

I grew up on a small dairy farm in Sonoma.  No water would mean no more work for my dad, who still works in the dairy industry.  He’s the first one I think of when it comes to water shortages.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

The best possible outcome would be a change in consciousness and practice in the use of our most valuable abiotic resource – water.  We cannot afford to do business as usual.  We must understand ours is a shared fate, as well as a shared sacrifice.  I’m given hope by the recent work at the Graton Day Labor Center.  We partnered with the Permaculture Skills Center to provide job training opportunities for day laborers using ecologically centered landscaping practices.  Last month we installed a rainwater catchment system and only a few days ago sheet mulched.  We also planted lots of fruit trees!

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

I can perceive an unwillingness from some in sacrificing certain lifestyles and customs.  For some, the reality of our drought may not feel urgent so that may be an unwillingness to do away with their lawn, for example.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

I believe our current behavior is reflective of a people who have not yet fully come to terms with the most dire and urgent challenge before us – climate change.  We cannot continue to ignore the greatest threat to life on earth.  We have inherited this earth from our ancestors.  We must add our wisdom and love to it, and hand it down, thinking seven generations ahead.  How we choose to face this challenge will impact our future generations.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Presently, our economic policies incentivize profit.  We must incentivize conservation, community, and collaboration.

8.   If folks work together now to confront the water situation in Sonoma County, what is your vision of Sonoma County in 20 years?  How do you feel about that vision?

I hope to see the use of more recycled water.  I wish to see more home and neighborhood gardens.  I wish to see the Laguna restored to some semblance of its former grandeur.  I wish to see a mighty Russian River.  I wish to see people participating in the democratic process fully conscious of the stakes and responsibilities we all bear in having a more sustainable Sonoma County.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?  What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

We can start by replacing lawns with lush food forests that produce apples and olives!  We can start by finding out online how much water and CO2 we use and emit and how many planets each needs to meet those demands.  Maybe then we’ll start to realize how unsustainable our consumption truly is.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

I feel positive and hopeful.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Josho Somine, Site Designer, Permaculture Design, Project Manager, Merge Studio, Sebastopol (59)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

My earliest memories are from Sonoma County.  I was a toddler on a hippie ranch outside Healdsburg, and playing in the meadows, creeks, and woods imprinted deeply on my consciousness.  I grew up mostly in the East Bay, but as I grew tired of the metropolitan lifestyle, I reconnected with the countryside through the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center, with whom I still maintain a steady relationship.

How do you feel about this interview?

Optimistically ambivalent.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

The water situation in the county seems like a mixed bag, but with better than average potential.  The coastal north bay is less hard hit by the drought than most parts of the state, and the diversity of municipal and residential sources, combined with the fairly progressive water agency, make for reasonable potential for resilience.  That said, groundwater extraction monitoring is a bit late in catching up with the massive vineyard industry, and the health of the Russian River is very poor.  Access to clean water may still become a matter of economic privilege.

How do you feel about it?

I feel concerned about the overall picture.  Many aspects still need to be addressed more thoroughly.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

Massive inequalities in resource access, both among citizens and agriculture, which could generate significant social tensions.

How do you feel about it?

I am quite concerned about the prospects, and feel that pro-active management is incumbent upon all levels of society.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

An abundant and resilient local economy and regional ecology, which could be a model for the state, nation, and even the world at large.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

Personal and economic inconvenience are the main themes, that long-term or big-picture considerations cripple the immediate possibilities and comforts.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

The concept that an individual is most fulfilled not as an autonomous unit, but as part of a larger integrated whole picture.  The old saying that ‘no man is an island’ is more true than ever as we run out of extra space and resources on the planet.  Self-moderation within a mindful context will become requisite.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Forms of voluntary simplicity and moderate consumption will be diverse and specifically tailored, as well as a focus on local production and community-scale self-reliance.  This will play out at every level from daily lifestyle choices to regional policies.

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

Sonoma County is already a wonderful place to live and visit, and with good planning that can become even more true, even more richly satisfying.  I hope local food production will continue to proliferate, that the pace of living will slow down a bit more, and the sense of community and engagement will deepen and broaden for everyone here.

How do you feel about that vision?

I feel hopeful about these possibilities.  As the awareness of our situation in the state and global contexts spreads to more of the populace, we should be able to manifest the collective will to implement a critical mass of the essential practices.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

It’s mostly a matter of continuing to spread the awareness of the positive practices and possibilities to more and more people.

What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

I already do this through my work and lifestyle choices.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

A bit more hopeful.  It helps to clarify and state the directions of aspiration.

 

Leonard Diggs, Manager, Shone Farm, Santa Rosa Junior College (53)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

Sonoma County is at the hub of my agricultural wheel.  Most of the spokes of this wheel are from California and a few are from out of state or out of the country.

How do you feel about this interview?

Willing and able.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now?  

It’s not good; however, when I look around at other parts of the state, I think that we are lucky to have at least some water reserves right now.  Being at a college farm, I think it is appropriate to say that this is a teaching moment; unfortunately, the issues are often a toxic blend of politics, economic interest, and environmental tug of war.

How do you feel about it?

Unfortunately, I don’t see any easy way to resolve this.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

Have you heard the recent story about the two biker gangs that got in a fight at a bar?  I know that this is a poor analogy, but if I tease it apart a little, I see the results of fighting over a limited resource and the blunt force that governmental agencies can bring to bear in these situations.  If we don’t confront our water situation with thoughtful planning and broad community engagement, we may see water hoarding, water scalping, and fear-based water allocations.

How do you feel about it?

I feel ready to work on this issue.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

The best outcome is that we are treated as important stakeholders by our state and national policy makers, and that we see our local concerns addressed in statewide projects.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

I am not sure because I have not sat down and talked with a group of people about this.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

1) That our planet has a fixed amount of water that we all need to share.  2) Upstream and downstream water management practices are everyone’s responsibility to be informed about.  3) What we purchase in our local stores will very likely affect our local water quality.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Create many more local/regional/neighborhood projects, in order to provide constant examples of the impact of changing our behavior.

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

No net loss in open space and agricultural land.

How do you feel about that vision?

It feels great!

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

Local leadership, community forums, and water education in K-12 classes.

What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

Talk to other members of my community about water.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

Inspired to go to work.

Foggy field at Shone Farm.

 

Letitia Hanke, Spokesperson, North Bay Black Chamber of Commerce; CEO/President, ARS Roofing (56)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

Lived here since 1993, but traveled here as a kid to the “big city” is what we called it.

How do you feel about this interview?

Should be fun!!

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

I know we are in a drought; not sure how severe.

How do you feel about it?

I hate not watering my lawn and taking shorter showers; however, if that’s what I need to do, so be it.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

I would think there would end up being some sort of penalties if we use more than we we are allowed to use, if it comes to measuring.

How do you feel about it?

I would not want to pay penalties, so I would just have to deal with it.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

Figure out ways to conserve water. Do more education on it.  A landscaper did a presentation today on 7 tips to conserve water and they really made sense.  I will be implementing a few of them.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

1) People just don’t really care.  2) People aren’t taking the drought seriously.  3) There’s not enough information about it.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

I’m a visual person, so seeing photos of dried up lakes and reservoirs is when I began taking it seriously.  I think they first need to believe that this is really happening.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

1) Have more guest speakers at Chamber functions.  2) Internet marketing.  3) Door-to-door pamphlets.  4) More seminars on conservation.

8.   If folks work together now to confront the water situation in Sonoma County, what is your vision of Sonoma County in 20 years?  How do you feel about that vision?

I don’t really think that far ahead; sorry.  Who really knows what it will be like in 20 years.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?  What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

Since I am not thinking that far ahead (20 years), my focus is on the right now and what I can do right now.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

I’m still having fun!  I think the questions are interesting and really making me think more about it.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Luca Zanin, President, Bennett Valley Cellars (58)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

I have spent my entire career serving and working in the wine industry and one day it hit me, what better place to live than in the community I serve.

How do you feel about this interview?

I am excited.  People have a tendency to get so wrapped up in their day to day routines and very often do not find the time to stop and say hello to a neighbor.  This type of interview forces us to stop and think and fully appreciate the people and places around us.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

Sonoma County in general is in much better shape than the rest of the state, but this is hardly a cause for celebration.  Water conservation should be on the minds of everyone.

How do you feel about it?

It is frustrating to hear farmers being blamed for water consumption when in reality, the average acre of vineyard uses less water in a year than a household uses in a month.  It is time for a reality check, and more importantly, it is time for the homeowner to understand that he needs to be accountable for waste in his own household, be it water or energy.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?  How do you feel about it?

Nobody is disputing the need for action with respect to water conservation, nor taking it to the next level which is implementing a mentality of eliminating wastefulness, even in times of abundance.  At the same time, we need to take a step back and understand that the current situation is not a doomsday scenario.  Technology exists with regards to water desalinization plants, and in fact, if necessary, could be easily implemented.  Is this the ideal scenario?  No.  But at the same time a lot has to happen to provoke the implosion of farming or society at large.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

Scarcity, be it food or water, forces people to take a harder look at their wasteful tendencies during times of abundance and recalibrate by forcing them to think about how they could have conserved when they had plenty.  Great things can happen when people are forced to confront an undesirable reality.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

We can listen to the reasons or excuses people provide, but the reasons are very simple.  We have not hit a “pain point” to the extent of warranting change.  Behaviors and attitudes have a tendency to stay the same until those very behaviors and attitudes cause us pain.  Without pain, there is no incentive to change.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

We live in a land of abundance, and with abundance comes waste.  Per capita, the average American consumes more electrical power, burns more gas and wastes more water than any other country in the world.  What would it take to change our wasteful behavior?  If we raise the costs of energy, gas, and water, I assure you that people would not leave their air conditioning on at home while they are at work, drive cars that get 15 mpg, and take 15 minute showers.  Until we make it painful, there is no incentive to alter our behaviors.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

There is no need to reinvent the wheel.  There are many countries in the world that implement practices to help conserve resources.  The bottom line is, if we make being wasteful expensive to our wallets, people will migrate towards conservation.

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

The only way to force people to work together is to put them in extreme hardship.  It will be at that point, in an effort to ease their own pain, that they will conclude that a rising lifts all boats and by working together a beneficial solution will result.  

How do you feel about that vision?

Utopia.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

People need to feel more pain, and until they feel it, nothing will happen.

What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

Stop and think.  Talk to your family and friends and neighbors.  In times of crisis, we need teamwork.  Galvanize the people around you and great things happen.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

Fantastic!

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Michelle Heston, Regional Director of Public Relations, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa (45)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

I am proud to work and serve as a community liaison.

How do you feel about this interview?

Honored and privileged.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

The water situation impacts the entire state.  It is paramount that every resident and business partner become involved in the issue.

How do you feel about it?

I feel committed to a positive outcome.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

Lack of resources for residents, businesses, and farmers.

How do you feel about it?

Concerned and committed to educating all stakeholders.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

Leveraging and growing environmental stewardship practices.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

“Not my problem.”  “I’m already water-conscious.”  “An issue for farmers and businesses.”

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

Conservation is everyone’s concern and responsibility.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Education.  Best practices.  Long-term planning.

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

That there would be additional sources (i.e., rain collection, de-salination, grey water infrastructure).

How do you feel about that vision?

Positive.  Californians are innovators.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

Long-term commitment; resources; dollars.

 What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

Education and sharing of best practices.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

Positive.  Honored to have the opportunity.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Richard Retecki, Board Member, Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation (51)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

Have lived and worked in Sonoma County for 44 years.

How do you feel about this interview?

Honored and hopeful for a collective awareness to solve our water problems for the future.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now?  How do you feel about it?

Critical, but hopeful.  It’s the kind of problem that will drive solutions – comprehensive, county-wide & local.  A chance for community creativity.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

We won’t address our existing habits as they relate to our needs and desires, which would put us in more conflict with ourselves (collective & individual), and with the environment.

How do you feel about it?

Sonoma County is filled with smart, dedicated people who will drive change and figure out solutions.  Per capita, compared to other places, there are more folks working to conserve and enhance our resources.  Water is the new “gold,” precious and limited.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

To maintain our unique and diverse natural beauty.  Maintain & secure an approach that will provide for agricultural, urban, rural residential, economic needs and population growth.  Working together is what we do here.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

It’s too complex a problem.  Fear that there is no creative fuel to tackle the problem.  The rain will return.  Collective reluctance to adjust our behavior and implement tools necessary for water conservation, recharge, and resource allowances.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

That water is, or can become, a finite resource and limiting factor for “progress” as we know it.  That may not be a bad thing.  A new necessary consciousness related to land use and limits for growth.  Solutions will need to include individuals, communities, business, agriculture, and government rising together to create a sustainable future.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

An intense focused dialogue is needed.  The county is comprised of 12 landscape/bio-regional units.  Use them to create either a comprehensive county-wide water management plan or a water management plan for each unit.  Solutions and tools that may be appropriate in Alexander Valley may not be in Bay Front Marshes.  Use less, conserve more.  Pay attention.

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

Once mobilized in Sonoma County, we get things done.  From government through nonprofits, ag groups, Sonoma County is filled with smart involved people who will work to implement the vision.  

How do you feel about that vision?

Sonoma County will be better than it is now.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?  What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

Educate ourselves as to the problem.  Research, find out what others are doing.  Become vocal and involved.  Break down the “critical density” of business, agriculture, government, and individual barriers to find solutions.  Maintain city-centered growth.  Relax government rules related to water collection, re-use, Class K housing, etc.  Join a group such as the Grange to heighten individual & group awareness about our water resources.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

Great!  It taxed my limited mental faculties, which is a gift.  Thankful.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Sandi Potter, Environmental Review & Comprehensive Planning Division Manager, Permit & Resource Management Department (PRMD), Santa Rosa (42)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

I live and work in Sonoma County.  I’m an Environmental Planning Manger at PRMD (Permit and Resource Management Dept.) for Sonoma County.

How do you feel about this interview?

I’m excited about this interview and honored to be included.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

In Sonoma County, we rely on a combination of surface water and groundwater.  After 3 years of drought, we’re struggling to meet our water needs – for land uses and the environment – now and into the future.  The drought has presented an opportunity for us collectively to re-evaluate how we manage and use water.

How do you feel about it?

I’m optimistic that we will meet this challenge by being more thoughtful about how we use and re-use water.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

The worst outcome would be that there is not enough water for our agricultural, municipal and environmental needs.

How do you feel about it?

I would be sad and frustrated if we could not all work together to prevent the worst outcome.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

The best outcome is that all interest groups come together to work on changes that will help us build a future with sustainable surface and groundwater supplies, and, at the same time, protect our creeks and streams.  The best outcome allows for some economic growth and water management innovation.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

Change is difficult for people and we are at a time where we need to re-think our relationship to water.  Jerry Brown has talked about how this is a paradigm shift; that we can’t all have our grassy lawn.  I think people will struggle, at first, to make some changes, but over time, new ways of doing things will be embraced and accepted.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

People will need to value water as the scarce resource that it is.  We will need to see the connection between rainfall, stream flow, tap water, and waste water, and protect the amount and quality of water at all steps of the hydrologic cycle.  We’ll need to see that water use is a critical factor in almost every aspect of our daily life and make changes to use this precious resource thoughtfully.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

I think that working together to better manage stormwater and groundwater is key.  Also, increased use of recycled water is very important.  New regulatory, financial, and other incentives to better manage our water supply will be needed.

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

My vision is of a future with diversified water sources, continuing our use of surface and ground water but increasing the availability of rainwater capture, groundwater storage, storm water re-use, to add to our water supply.  I see future development that promotes groundwater recharge; protects nearby agriculture and open space; and protects and enhances our creeks and streams.

How do you feel about that vision?

I feel great about this future.  Think how we could work together to balance economic growth and, at the same time, increase water supply.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

We are taking the first steps.  People are conserving water and we’re having these conversations.  Each of us every day can take small steps to conserve water.  Collectively we can work together to make bigger changes.

 What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

I’m proud to be working with Sonoma County to meet the requirements of the State’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

It was great to talk about this really important issue.  Thanks for the opportunity.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

 

Tara Smith, Tara Firma Farms, Petaluma (52)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

I am a transplant of 6 years.  It has been a gracious welcoming into the richest food shed in the world and I am honored to be here in support of retaining, growing, and supporting the local food economy.

How do you feel about this interview?

Surprised and honored to be asked.  I am in hope that our water concerns will flow into the consciousness of all residents in the county so we may work together to avoid a catastrophe (pun intended).

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now?  How do you feel about it?

We are in for a rude awakening.  The effects are far reaching when it pertains to soil.  As soil microbial life depletes with lack of water and overgrazing our grass lands, the process of desertification accelerates.  Our loss of agricultural business (local food, knowing your farmer) has already begun and we, as a community, are unaware.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?  How do you feel about it?

We lose our food security.  In other words, we lose the option to know our farmers and their practices.  When a well runs dry, the cost to raise and grow food, if water needs to be purchased, will be cost prohibitive to most farmers/ranchers.  Recent polls show most Californians are asking for farmers to cut back.  It will be sad to lose our food choices.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

To raise our community consciousness to a point that we actually work together.  That would mean a deep education of how we need to support the things we deem, as a community, to be important.  More importantly, we need a leader that can lead a vision vs managing day to day.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

I don’t think that there is enough understanding for the average citizen to have reasons.  We are too busy worrying about getting the next version of our cell phones to recognize the danger we are facing.  We lack true leadership.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

We need to be responsible for ourselves, the resources we use, and focus on our local community for the long term.  Coming together as a community in all aspects.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Leadership coming together to message to the public the critical nature of what we face, and draw all community members to participate in Town Hall education that in turn leads to action.  All members of the community coming together to discuss, plan, commit, and execute the next 50 to 100 years.

8.   If folks work together now to confront the water situation in Sonoma County, what is your vision of Sonoma County in 20 years?  How do you feel about that vision?

We have been faced with global warming for decades and we, as a community, are still discussing whether it is real.  We have become too dependent on government and have little responsibility for our own actions.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

A leader in the community will need to step forward, paint a vision we can see ourselves in, challenge processes to move toward that vision, enable the common citizen to act, encourage the successes, and model seemly behavior (behavior we can look up to and pull our best from within ourselves to meet it).

What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

“When the student is ready, leadership shows up.”  We are doing it here at Tara Firma Farms.  We have educated over 10k community members through free weekend tours.  We discuss water, soil, food, and critical state of affairs.  We are readying the students...

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

Excited.  I think we will go big or have to move.  I prefer the go big and want to fight for that.

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”  

Martin Luther King Jr.


 

Tiffany Renée, President/Treasurer/Co-founder, Petaluma Grange (48)

1.   What is your relationship to Sonoma County?

My dad owned a house out at Bodega Bay.  Growing up, we would come through Petaluma from Fair Oaks.  I fell in love with the area.  We spent many weekends traipsing around, exploring, crabbing, and eating.  It’s just a magical place with many fond memories of my family.

How do you feel about this interview?

I think this is an important project.  I hope I have enough to add to the knowledge base and expand the pool of thought on how we can come together to figure these water issues out.

2.   As you see it, what is the water situation in Sonoma County right now? 

There are many layers to our water situation.  In Petaluma, we either seem to have too much or not enough.  There are severe infrastructure problems too.  Many old pipes using systems that pave, pipe, and pollute our water.  We have old ways of managing animal husbandry that also contribute to watershed collapse.  And we’re not putting enough back into our groundwater recharge areas. 

How do you feel about it?

I’ve been deeply concerned about stormwater issues in Petaluma.  How we built out the city is outdated in terms of run-off.  The infrastructure is very old and needs repair.  I see opportunities to address this while shifting policy towards new improved systems of slow it, spread it, sink it.

3.   What is the worst possible outcome of not confronting the water situation in Sonoma County?

In regards to not having enough water, the worst outcome is becoming a dust bowl with ghost towns.  While I think we still have time to prevent an outcome like this, changes need to be happening on a greater scale.  People need to feel a greater sense of responsibility to saving water.  It should be a patriotic duty to reduce and re-use water at home.  In regards to infrastructure issues, I don’t think people realize how critical this is or how expensive it continues to be, the longer we put it off.

How do you feel about it?

I have been very disappointed by political maneuvering around some of the tax measures recently.  I think our politicians need to feel more responsible about maintaining and upgrading our water systems than they have been.

4.   What is the best possible outcome of working together to confront the water situation in Sonoma County?

Bring together stakeholders to find our common ground so we can move forward to set policy.  Funding policy is essential.  There is too much distrust.  Distrust of politicians.  Distrust of business and development interests.  Distrust of the electorate to make investments in our cities and communities in respect to tax measures.  If people come together to address concerns and shape a better policy, there will be more buy-in in the proposed outcome.

5.   What are all the reasons people will give that it is impossible to achieve the best possible outcome?

Time.  I have sought people to serve on our local committees and many times the response I get is that people don’t have enough time.  We need to make time for this.  Another is that our public agencies don’t have enough funds to take on new projects, or even to study the issues.  This may be true to some extent, but we can start small and design more efficiently to phase changes in over time.

6.   What are the new beliefs and behaviors folks will need to learn in order to make the best possible outcome happen?

The biggest shift to move change is that we need to understand we are interconnected, interdependent.  Many times people don’t see this until the result of a policy shift starts to affect them.  Seeing beyond how a new water policy will affect me to seeing how it can help everyone can help people realize that if, say, farmers can’t grow food, or businesses need to re-think water use, will put the issues in a larger context of importance.  Whether a business has to make innovations on water use may not seem important to, say, a stay at home mom.  But if that business is helping to fund sports or science programs in local schools, it may impact her kids’ education.  We need to work together to identify where the challenges are and how we can move past them in community.

7.   What are strategies and actions that will reflect those new beliefs and behaviors and make the best possible outcome happen?

Unfortunately, I’ve seen all too often people – lots of people – show up at a council or county meeting up in arms over outcomes or proposed policy.  We need to have more involvement on the front end so people feel empowered to help set the policies that will affect them.  When people are more engaged and involved, we get better policy too.  People start hearing how someone is already doing watershed restoration on their farm and they get inspired to see it not only works, but can improve the quality of their food.  They want to do it too.  I’ve seen farmers and ranchers wonder why that ranch has greener hills longer.  It gets people inspired to learn from their peers.  Knowing it’s possible removes fear of the unknown.

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

I’ve been working my bit of land – 1/8th acre – to capture water and sink it.  My hope is that my visible vegetable garden and bees will inspire others.  As a regenerative water policy advocate, I can’t expect people to make changes unless I’ve also made them.  My vision is that people will take pride and ownership of making changes at home to slow, spread and sink water.  To grow food or bee & bird forage.  To capture rain water and sink it on their properties.  That we can find a regenerative water policy that reduces road width, creates urban forests, slows cars down, reducing wear and tear on roads, cleans pollution from stormwater before it reaches our creeks and rivers, and restores our watershed for fish to return.  Those are opportunities that await us with better water policy.

How do you feel about that vision?

I’m excited by that vision.  And know there are many leaders ready to implement that vision.

9.   What is the first step that will need to be taken to realize that vision?

There are many steps.  Some are in progress.  Some are just seed ideas.  In Petaluma, we need to get serious about how to improve our stormwater system and fund road maintenance.  These two things are deeply tied together if we are going to take a regenerative approach to managing stormwater.

What is something that you can do right now to make that vision happen?

To move us forward, we will need a tax measure that can pass.  I took a class from Daily Acts (permaculture) and created a stormwater policy project with my group.  We made a video and presented it to City Council ( HYPERLINK "http://petalumawatershed.com/" http://petalumawatershed.com/ ).  It’s probably time we brought stakeholders together to explore putting a regenerative stormwater policy to a vote of the people.  By laying out our vision and involving & engaging the community in a dialogue to improve and write a collaborative measure, my hope is that we can pass it.

10.  How do you feel about this interview now?

Inspired and motivated!  To quote Marie Forleo, “Everything is figure-out-able.”

11.  Please take a picture that says “This is the thing that means the most to me about my life in Sonoma County.”