By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Windsor’s water situation can be viewed like the classic choice of the half-empty, or half-full glass.
On the one hand, all of its water supply is committed to current users and planned development over the next eight years or so.
In fact, “it’s slightly in the negative,” according to Craig Scott, Windsor’s principal civil engineer, meaning that at least on paper, Windsor can’t quite supply water to all 1,733 future homes in its development pipeline.
But on the other hand, a new well site, conservation and increasing use of recycled wastewater is expected to enable Windsor to meet its commitments.
That was the upshot last week of a water supply update presented to the Town Council.
Windsor, like other North Coast communities, has gotten a reprieve the last couple years as a result of cooler summers and a cool economy.
But that could change.
“If we get a couple hot summers in a row, or development takes off, we need to be prepared,” said Mayor Steve Allen.
To that end, Windsor is working on a number of options. They include new wells, and even the possibility of “groundwater banking” in which it would siphon Russian River water during high winter flows and store it in the ground for later use.
Windsor gets most of its water from its Russian River well field under rights granted to the Sonoma County Water Agency, which also supplies Santa Rosa and other North Bay communities.
But the water agency has been required to reduce diversions from the river to help protect fish migration. And it also decided in 2009 to drop a long-term plan to pump more water from the river, forcing cities to reconsider their growth abilities.
Water use by Sonoma County homes and businesses remains 20 percent below what it was two years ago as a result of continued conservation, the cooler weather and weak economy.
But the mostly voluntary water rationing programs that were in effect in recent years could easily return.
“We could face a dry hot summer next summer and get an urgency order like we did in ‘08 — with a 25 percent cutback — and we would be right up against our supply,” said Dave Richardson of RMC Water and Environment, a consultant for Windsor.