Marin knows they need a plan for saving water

September 16, 2009 6:47:55 PM PDT
In Marin County, there are new concerns about water that extend long the drought. Planners are worried about permanent growth restrictions, so they're looking for other sources of water beyond the Russian river in Sonoma County -- which supplies most of Northern Marin. The Sonoma County Water District says it must change the way it does business.

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Northern Marin County did expect some water woes this summer. Restrictions of 25 percent have left gutters dry, some lawns brown, and Novato residents like Lisa Oliver, conscious of every drop.

"Every time I turn the sprinklers on, I worry about where the water is going," says Oliver.

Still, those concerns do not compare with a surprise policy change by the Sonoma County Water District, which supplies 80 percent of Northern Marin's water. It has district manager Chris DeGabriele contemplating a law suit.

When asked if he were in their shoes, would he behave any differently, DeGabriele replied, "Yes, I would want to fulfill my contractual obligations."

On Tuesday, Sonoma County's water district voted to abandon plans that would have improved distribution to Marin County and decided to not ask the state for more water from the Russian River.

"We believe we're protecting everyone's interests," says Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown.

The plan had been in the works for two decades and with new pipelines, it would have provided Marin County with all the water it is projected to need through 2030.

"They think they can do this through some other scheme, but nobody knows exactly what it is," says Paul Helliker with the Marin Municipal Water District.

Helliker compares this to a seemingly happy marriage on the rocks. No doubt, Sonoma County has had problems. Lake Mendocino looked almost bone dry last winter. The district is torn between orders to protect fish in the Russian River and obligations to customers who use that water. Supervisor Valerie Brown describes this as a difficult decision, but a responsible one for conservation.

"The drought has been continuous and it hasn't seem to let up, so our belief is the drought will continue for a period of time and we have to plan for that," says Brown.

That plan for now has been left with no details.

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