From WILL PARRISH
Last month, the California State Water Resources Control Board enacted “emergency drought regulations” in parts of four Russian River tributaries in Sonoma County with the stated aim of protecting endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout. Among other things, the 270-day regulation forbids watering of lawns by residences and businesses. It places limits on car-washing and watering of home gardens.
It does not, however, restrict water use by the wine industry, which many rural Sonoma County residents recognize as the main contemporary cause of most of these watersheds’ decline.
In response, hundreds of Sonoma County residents flocked to several “community meetings” where the Water Board announced the terms of their regulatory order last month. Water Board representatives and fishery officials responded to the pervasive complaints by saying that their goal is to avoid cutting off water for irrigation, since it “provides an economic benefit,” and that they would only move to other water use curtailments if absolutely necessary to ensure the survival of these creeks’ 2015 year-class of juvenile salmon and trout.
In the meantime, these state and federal officials hailed one aspect of the regulation as an inherently progressive feature, one they touted would apply equally to vineyards and residences: an “information order.” Under this requirement, all water users in the applicable portions of the four creeks would be required to report the amount of water they are using and the source of that water.