WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa council backs water rate increase


The Santa Rosa City Council voted Tuesday to support paying 5 percent more for the water it buys from the Sonoma County Water Agency, agreeing that the increase was necessary to build reserves for large upcoming construction projects.

The council voted 5-2 to support the increase, with council members Gary Wysocky and Julie Combs voting against it. Both said the increase didn’t seem justified given the history of ever-increasing local utility rates.

water“The case has not been made to me,” Wysocky said.

Under the plan, the wholesale price of water would increase from $672 per acre-foot of water to $705.

When passed on to ratepayers, the higher costs should result in about 2.1 percent higher water bills, or 71 cents per month in the winter or $1.49 per month in summer for an average household, according to city officials.

Water Agency officials said the increases were necessary to avoid future rate spikes by setting aside money for projects such as fish habitat improvements in Dry Creek, which could cost the agency upwards of $140 million.

Mayor Scott Bartley said the proposal was “prudent” given the required upcoming construction projects.

“I’m comfortable with it. I’m not thrilled with it,” Bartley said.

Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom said she believed water rates were too low, agreeing with a speaker that they are not high enough to sufficiently encourage conservation.

The recommendation will be passed onto the board that advises the agency’s board of directors, advice that is not binding.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.

18 Responses to “Santa Rosa council backs water rate increase”

  1. Elephant says:

    Bear wrote – “The State Dept. of Water Resources regulates the amount of water that can be taken from the Russian River water system. That includes Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma.”

    Here is more on that story.

    Around the year 2000, the State Dept. of Water Resources told our beloved Board of Stupidvisors to come up with a county water use plan. They stalled for a good 10 years. By 2010, the Sonoma County Water Agency had contracts for supplying water that exceeded their legal limit by about 20%. So when the BoS finally came up with something for the state, it included a request to increase their water take by 30%. Not only did the state turn down the increase, they told the BoS that their allotment was being DECREASED by 20%. I have no idea if that plan was ever finalized of it’s still in limbo.

    I see the issue with Sonoma County running out of water in two parts. First, it appears that the SCWA has contracts for 40% more water than they can legally supply. They pray every year for above average rainfall because that’s the only way they can supply everybody with water. Second is that the continual mining of the gravel in and along the Russian River severely compromises the recharge of the Russian River aquifer. This aquifer only recharges in area with rocky soil. Aquifer recharge from rainfall simply does not happen in ares with adobe clay soil. This includes all of Rohnert Park and most of Santa Rosa.

    It is a violation of CEQA for any development to be approved when there isn’t enough drinking water available. I’m waiting for the State to tell Sonoma County – “you have 40% more development than you have water for. You must reduce what you have. No more developments here.” And just so ya know, Warm Springs Dam was not built for flood control. It was built for water supply. And the rumor is that Lake Sonoma is rapidly filling with silt.

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  2. bear says:

    The State Dept. of Water Resources regulates the amount of water that can be taken from the Russian River water system. That includes Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma.

    Ask the SCWA about their annual appropriation limit. Growth may have slowed in the last few years, but there is a limit and the last effort to negotiate a higher limit failed.

    The limit will likely be reached in 2020. A very few years might be added due to slow growth, or subtracted due to a few years of sustained low rainfall.

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  3. Steve Humphrey says:

    “Put a little fear here and there and you can get people to vote any way you want.” James Carville

    In the late fifties early sixties era we all had lush green lawns inneficiently irragated by whirlybird sprinklers while kids ran through tham to keep cool. We washed our cars in the street. The Russian River ran uncontrolled in the winter then became just random pools and meaningless riffles in the summer. Dry Creek was just that….dry. Certainly our population has grown, but dwarfed by the water capacity we enjoy today.
    With over 150 BILLION gallons of storage capacity behind Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma the pundits are raising the alarm.
    It’s time our officials stand up and just say no to the SCWA. The use less pay more rhetoric is getting old.

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  4. GAJ says:

    Jim, he’s getting his “facts” from the Eel River Reporter which points out that running out of water for planned growth is possible.

    Not completely running out of water and they agree there are mitigations available.


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  5. Jim says:


    Do you know something we don’t? Is the Russian River going dry in 2020?

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  6. bear says:

    The PD will still not print my fact.

    The SCWA water system, which serves every city and water district from Windsor to North Marin, will be out of water in 2020.

    Get ready to pay MORE.

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  7. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    MOCKINGBIRD, I’m with you on the native plants, but I don’t like to use the word weeds. All plants have names (I don’t use the Latin ones) and a nature; I’ve even grown to be thankful for Common Groundsel.
    I like to let Nature decide who lives in my yard, because I’m a pantheist. I believe in the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, just like in the first line of the United States Declaration of Independence.

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  8. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Dan Drummond you are funny! In other words where you lawn was are now weeds. That’s ok. I love hairy vetch too, it’s beautiful. You forgot Scarlet Pimpernel. Tiny, but absolutely beautiful. You are absolutely right.

    On my walks I see a lot of yards with plants that rarely or never need watering. Plant native plants like beautiful manzanita bushes and madrone, bay laurel, oak trees, hardy blooming succulents, douglas iris, and so on. Lawns are a waste of money when you can have real beauty with native plants.

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  9. Liz says:

    “Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom said she believed water rates were too low, agreeing with a speaker that they are not high enough to sufficiently encourage conservation.”

    I wish I could have been there tuesday night to speak out again on this topic. I have spoken many times on this issue to the city council and it has fallen on def ears.
    We have owned our home for 7 years now and in the last 7 years our water bill has doubled.
    We have no lawn and never had one. We have gravel, and there is just 2 of us with front load washer, low flow toilets, rain barrels to collect and use rain water etc. etc.
    We have cut back our water use even further in the last few years only to see our bill continue to rise.
    It is so simple the less water we use the less money they have made requiring them to raise our rates.
    Our water rates are among the highest in the country. And for using little to almost no water in our home, paying over $60 a month for water is highway robbery!

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  10. Dan says:

    Having a nice yard with a lawn is the work of the devil. If you don’t believe me, just ask the city council. There is nothing less inviting than a yard full of rocks and low water shrubs. Dusty dry lawns in the summer, even more so. I should know, I mow them for a living. Not that the city council cares about my efforts at making a living……….

    Maybe I will retire and guzzle wine, (which is now cheaper than water) and go on welfare.

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  11. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    Mr. Karraker: In the eye of the beholder, it’s a free country. Good for you, and the water agency.
    By the way, do you take care of your own lawn, or can you afford to pay someone else to do it for you?

    Respect the grass on which you tread, twill bloom above you when you’re dead. ~Palmer Cox

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  12. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    GAJ, but who wants to live in Arizona, Florida and Texas; not you, am I right?

    ‘Tis not in getting great amounts, it is the sacrifice that counts. ~Palmer Cox

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  13. Mr. Drummond:

    Your lawn with its boulders and bleached-out ornamental grasses may be pleasing to your eye, but personally I find nothing more inviting than a cool green expanse of lawn. When I look out my home office window in the dry summer months, it is a welcome soft buffer that easies the ugliness of the parched brown grass that covers Sonoma Mountain.

    If that sounds politically incorrect, I certainly hope so.

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  14. Phil Maher says:

    “Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom said she believed water rates were too low, agreeing with a speaker that they are not high enough to sufficiently encourage conservation.”

    What an imbecile! As we’ve all seen, time and time again, when we conserve too well, the SCWA’s revenue goes down and our rates go up. They’ve even publicly stated as much as their rationale for other past increases.

    I do suppose that when people are forced to shut of their water or move due to not being able to afford it, then conservation might reach Carlstrom’s elusive goal. Another politician that obviously went into the back room and took that secret vow of stupidity just moments after being sworn into office. Really, save yourself before you try to save everyone else that’s merely trying to get by and do the best they can. What a holier-than-thou mouthpiece.

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  15. GAJ says:

    Dan, I did that with our lawn years ago, and have pretty much exhausted all my water saving “tricks” from front load washer, low flow faucets/toilets, bucket in the bathtub to catch shower water as it warms to use in the toilet etc. etc.

    My water bill is still obscene.

    About triple what relatives pay in Arizona, Florida and Texas.

    All of those properties are larger, have lawns and two of them have swimming pools.

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  16. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    Lawns are the most irrigated crop in America, and the runoff from fertilizers can lead to toxins and algae blooms in our creeks. I pay Santa Rosa water rates, so I stopped irrigating my yard in 2008. Everyone should do the same!
    I love the real California landscape nature now provides. The cutleaf geraniums are about to bloom. And I can’t wait for the oyster plants to get big so the purple vetch can climb higher. My old lawn still comes back every year, but now it bunches and grows tall like ornamental grasses. I don’t miss the high water bills; and my savings have paid for the huge boulders that now grace my yard.

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  17. The Answer says:

    The rubber stamp was in action Tuesday night. No matter what the voters say, water rates are going to continue to go up and the government is not going to cut back on spending.

    It’s just the way it works here in Sonoma County and in Obama’s Washington.

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  18. Grapevines says:

    Of course they backed it. In the nature of our worthless State Senator Noreen Evans, they haven’t seen a fee or tax raise that they didn’t back.

    Ever get the feeling that we’re living in Bell, California??

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