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Santa Rosa Plain groundwater basin land use and crop type map

Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Fee Community Meeting 

Jan 17, 2019


The Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) is hosting a community meeting on January 30, to discuss a proposed groundwater sustainability fee to provide short-term funding for the new agency. Attendees will also learn about a proposed well registration program. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Wednesday, January 30, Finley Community Center,  2060 West College Ave, Santa Rosa.


The GSA was created to sustain the quality and quantity of groundwater in the Santa Rosa Plain (generally, the valley floor stretching from Cotati to Windsor and from the foot of Sonoma Mountain to Sebastopol). This state-mandated agency is nearing completion of a year-long study to finds ways to finance day-to-day operations and groundwater planning. A groundwater sustainability fee – based on estimated groundwater use – is being considered.


Santa Rosa Plain groundwater basin land use and crop type map

“The GSA Board has worked for more than a year to develop an equitable, low-impact solution that will allow us to fund this state-mandated agency,” said Santa Rosa Plain GSA board chair Lynda Hopkins.  “The meeting is an opportunity for community members to learn about the proposed fee, and to share their thoughts.”


“The GSA Board and Advisory Committee have discussed fee options in 12 public meetings, we held a community workshop to solicit creative ideas, and we’ve provided monthly updates to our large email list,” said Santa Rosa Plain GSA vice-chairman Tom Schwedhelm. “We hope people can attend the January 30 meeting to learn more details.”


Groundwater Sustainability Plan Development Timeline



The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was passed into California law in fall 2014. The Act requires that State-designated medium and high priority basins form a GSA and develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). Santa Rosa Plain (essentially, the valley floor, extending from Cotati to Windsor) is a medium priority basin. In compliance with SGMA, the Santa Rosa Plain GSA was created in June, 2017.


GSA member agencies contributed funds to pay for the first two years of GSA operating costs. In fall of 2017, the GSA sought a consultant to conduct a rate and fee study to develop options for funding the agency for the next three years, until the GSP is completed (in 2022). Raftelis (a financial consulting firm) began the study in December 2017. In spring 2018, the GSA was awarded a $1 million Proposition 1 grant from the California Department of Water Resources for developing the GSP. The grant funds significantly offset GSA costs. Funding is needed to cover the remaining operating costs of approximately $337,000 annually.


Strict constitutional requirements on fees and taxes have narrowed the funding options to fees that would likely be based on actual or estimated groundwater use. Potential fee payors could include groundwater users such as cities, water districts, farmers, businesses and residents with wells. It is estimated that about a third of all groundwater used in Santa Rosa Plain is used by agriculture; about a third percent by cities and towns; about a quarter by rural residents; with the remainder split amongst other users including mutual water companies, schools, golf courses and other commercial users.


Proposed fee amounts could range from $1- $3 annually for a well owner with a small irrigation well(but whose main water supply is from a city) to between $16-$26 per acre-foot for larger pumpers, like cities, towns, mutual water companies, agriculture and golf courses. (An acre-foot of water is equivalent to 325,851 gallons.) Rural residents, who rely solely on a well for water, could pay between $8-$13 annually.


If the GSA does not impose fees, and as a result, cannot complete and implement the GSP, the state could intervene and impose fees that would range from $100 annually for residential well owners to $300 (base fee) plus $40 per acre-foot of groundwater use for agriculture, cities, mutual water systems, golf courses and commercial users.


For more information about the Santa Rosa Plain GSA, go to



Jan 23, 2019
Facebook Comments: Dorothy StoneInouye - There are plenty of commercial wells they can use for study. Private should be left alone and there should be no fee from anyone. The state has a budget surplus - take it from that. Fight this. Any monitoring should be leased and with permission and contract and equipment removed at the conclusion of the study. The State should be leasing private wells for this “study” and removing equipment afterward. At the very least removing equipment and charging no fee or tax. They also should not be taxing well owners at all to fund a new agency. There’s a big difference between “agency” and “study.” If it was just a simple matter of this needed groundwater study, it would not be a big deal but with this plan it now is. There is a great deal of power and money in who controls water. Californians should say yes to the studies and no to taxation and permanent use of their private wells. If there was not this effort to use private wells - which have been paid for and maintained privately, the state would have to be drilling their own study wells, as has been done in the past. Or leasing the private wells, as has also been done in the past. This plan uses private property with no compensation but a tax on top of it. Also, past meetings of those in favor quite freely paint well owners as wasteful and selfish! I couldn’t understand this negative and untrue propaganda until the whole plan was revealed. Now it makes sense. Pit non-well people against homeowners with wells it appears. Everyone I know who lives on a well is quite careful about water use - if a well runs dry or fills slow due to overuse it is our pockets the cost comes out of. That’s why the strong feelings against this. Good to study groundwater. Long overdue to study groundwater. Bad planning on how to go about it. I hope well owners and others understand it’s the way they intend to go about this that is so unsettling. Having a well is not just a hole in the ground. One has the county fees and taxes; and the upkeep and testing to be sure the water is safe and even making sure there is no danger being made to the water quality. The homeowner takes these expenses themselves. There is no county or city well service to call to repair or restore water. The pumping and storage tank, filtration etc all privately paid.
- Vesta Copestakes
Jan 23, 2019
Here's a selection of Facebook Comments: Cassie Thomson - Then monitor the water by voluntary participation. I’ve had my well monitored for free for many years by Land Smart for free monitoring any impact by the Casino
- Randi Francis - I hope to go and be educated on this. I don’t want to pay for my own well water, it cost me a bundle to put a new well in, plus sewer fees are huge. However, I’m concerned about the aquifer and groundwater quality and we should all be, and make sure there’s a sustainable future for our well water. Let’s have an open mind and show up.
- Patricia Dines - I'm not usually against government initiatives per se. And I understand the theory, but already I don't feel like it's structured for those community goals. They're not starting with big users - ag is off the table, last I heard. They're going after homeowners and adding to our bills. Once that starts, we're just a revenue stream. I don't feel like that's the path that's needed to understand our groundwater. That's about controlling the usage of small users. They didn't put in my well, or help me fix the water. They want me to pay to use my own well. I bet they're going to require a meter too. At my expense, very likely. While the big straws going much deeper than our wells and using way more than we use to just watch from the gallery. Plus I've been disappointed recently by our SCounty bureaucracies - doing steps of a checklist and not hearing when they're totally missing their supposed goals -- while we pay the price. They don't have my confidence in general, and in what I've seen of this so far.
- Michael Siminitus - We need to all plan to protect this precious resource. Hopefully, residential well owners will show up and participate instead of just complaining on Facebook!
- Dionne Mitchell-Maniaci - Private should be left alone, considering the amount of commercial there is and the companies that are not from here and not paying anything for water and making money hand over fist while taking from private wells. Commercial needs to pay they make a hefty profit, while private use it to live.
- David Gray - In 2014 the State of California finally recognized the risks of overdrawing the aquifer after massive land subsidence and private wells going dry in the Central Valley. Aquifers are not infinite and do not rebound after collapsing.
- Bridgett Petersen - For more info check out SGMA. It was passed back in 2014.
- Adam De La Montanya - You want to pay us and maintain our wells then we can talk about a fee otherwise you are just carpet walkers trying to look like you are doing something.
- Edwin Ruddick - I would happily pay $8-13 per year for someone to monitor the aquifer. Especially when you consider the alternative of having the state impose much higher fees...... Thank you for the heads up, so I have an opportunity to learn more about this!
Nick Bettencourt - Registration: when the government steals your rights and sells them back to you as a privilege.
- Eric Fleming - Don't we already pay a "fee" to let Nestle pump millions of gallons of groundwater, and give the company a tax break? Then they charge $2 for a bottle of water that comes out of the tap? This Tax is stupid, and will be passed by uniformed voters, politicians, and corrupt unions. This is a tax to pay for unfunded, promised pensions that the state cannot pay. Same as the gas tax. California has maybe 5 years. Total bankruptcy.
- Vesta Copestakes
Mar 29, 2019
The fee structure is crafted to be unfair, with the wine industry paying significantly less than their fair share, and rural residential well users significantly more. The claim rural homes use 0.5 a-f is nonsense; it equates to an average of 460 gallons per day. All winter we do no outdoor irrigation at all. De-minimus users should be exempt from a fee. We use but a tiny fraction of the rainwater that soaks into our land anyway. We do not adversely impact the aquifer/groundwater and we will NOT be provided any benefit by this new greedy government bureaucracy. It is the municipal and commercial groundwater use that is the issue, deep industrial scale wells, that need to be monitored as to what effect they are having on the groundwater levels and how they may be impacting nearby shallow wells. - Mike Hilber
- Mike Hilber

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