SANTA ROSA – The Sonoma County Water Agency and the municipalities to which it supplies Russian River water are under a state order to put commercial landscapes with dedicated meters on water budgets that dramatically limit irrigation by December.
The May 24 order from the State Water Resources Control Board calls for a maximum applied water allowance of 60 percent of climate-specific irrigation needed by the same area of turf in previous years. The water agency has to report progress to the state board by year-end.
The order resulted from the water agency’s required cutback under federal regulatory policy in reservoir water releases into the Russian River and tributaries to boost populations of young protected salmon.
The Sonoma County Commercial Business Park Coalition, made up of a majority of property owners in the county, last year proposed to phase in such a cap by 2017.
“The commercial turf owners are on it,” said Carolyn Wasem, who is coordinating the effort. “It would have been nice to have more than one year.”
Because the trimmed water allowance is based on applied water, it may be enough for property owners to get through this year because of the late-spring rains and cool weather, according to Ms. Wasem.
A meeting of the coalition and municipal officials is planned for June 16 to plan training and outreach programs for properties currently not on water budgets, according to Ms. Wasem.
Some commercial landscapers are exploring variations in turf varieties and root structures that also could achieve dramatic water savings, she said.