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Deep dive: How is groundwater in Sonoma County used?

It is imperative more now than ever for residents of Sonoma County to be aware of exactly how our groundwater resources are being used. Understanding how much water is being pumped will enable actual protections for our residential users that are increasingly experiencing dry wells. In addition, knowledge of groundwater pumping from wells will also ensure that the important public trust resources we all hold dear are not adversely impacted. It is time for these harmful practices to come to an end.

By challenging the County to fulfill their public trust obligations in a robust and transparent way, we can begin to rectify some of these past and ongoing harms, and bring our groundwater use in line with the increasing realities of climate change. Compliance with the Public Trust Doctrine is great for our environment, our County’s rural residences, and our small sustainable farming communities.

We believe that community awareness will not only help bring new voices to the table, but also give our community the opportunity to relay their own concerns on how the County’s current policies are negatively impacting them and the environment. It is time for all groundwater users to be transparent in their use (essentially all of us rely on groundwater for all - or part of our water uses), so that we can finally hold the County’s thirsty big agriculture users and large resorts accountable.

Currently Sonoma County’s agriculture communities and large resorts have ZERO conservation requirements or even basic use limits despite their residential and small farm neighbors running dry. There are also no fees being charged for the use of groundwater unless the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) has that capacity in limited basins. Without accountability for the use of groundwater means that big private businesses are thriving off the unregulated use of our groundwaters while individual residences, small farms, and our public resources are having to suffer the consequences.

By pushing the County to fulfill their public trust duties, they must do the work of analyzing the impacts of both existing and future wells in areas in order that groundwater pumping is not adversely impacting our shared public trust resources.

The County must require the following for all groundwater wells that may impact interconnected surface water flows: metering or monitoring of use, reporting of use and

changes in use, location of use, mitigating criteria for all wells, and types of use. Without basic requirements the County is not able to make informed decisions on how to protect our groundwaters from over pumping, rectify the negative impacts of vineyard pumping on residential well users, prevent adverse impacts to our public trust resources, and so much more.

By requiring transparency, monitoring, and effective mitigation measures of all groundwater pumpers impacting interconnected surface waters in Sonoma County, the public trust resources we all rely upon will be protected, while providing a multitude of additional benefits throughout our County.

Here are a few ways to participate if you want to engage in this process to protect our local groundwater and public trust resources:

  • Sign up for Permit Sonoma Groundwater Well Alerts HERE so you can stay informed and join in at public meetings
  • Send letters to the Sonoma County Well Ordinance Policy Working Group and/or the Technical Working Group—supporting measures that are protective of our groundwaters, and sharing stories of how unregulated groundwater pumping has negatively impacted your own life.
  • You are also encouraged to offer comments and suggestions for the Ordinance.

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