Barge water is out, stored water is in

Jul 12, 2021

July 12, 2021 — Barge water is out, and water storage is in. With shortages rapidly approaching a critical point in most parts of the county, water storage ideas are getting a lot of traction.  

At one point, bringing water into Noyo Harbor on a barge was an idea that had some currency. But at Thursday night’s virtual drought task force meeting, Alex Huang, of the State Water Resources Control Board, explained that this idea would not be feasible.

Josh Metz, the program manager for the Mendocino County Water Agency, sketched out a plan to bring water from Willits to Fort Bragg on the train, though it’s not clear at this point if the water or the infrastructure is available.

Water trucks have not gotten much love during the crafting of the cannabis cultivation ordinance. But water trucks hauling potable water are tightly regulated by the state. There are five licensed potable water haulers in the county. Supervisor John Haschak said the Board of Supervisors and County Counsel are working on ways to control water trucks locally. 

But for the moment, storing the increasingly scarce resource is top of mind. Tomorrow the board will consider an urgency ordinance that would allow people across the county to install temporary water storage tanks on their parcels without discretionary or environmental review as long as the county is in a declared local emergency.

On the South Coast, Randy Burke, the Director of works at the Sea Ranch Water Company, said he’s working with the State Division of Drinking Water and Department of Water Resources to get a grant for a project he hopes will eventually make it possible to store 220,000 gallons, and thus “take the pressure off the north Gualala watershed,” as he reported to the task force.

At a recent meeting in Anderson Valley, several attendees brought up the possibility of a moratorium on vineyards. McGourty, who grows wine grapes, said they bring in tax revenue: for every ton of chardonnay, he offered by way of example, growers get about $1200, which he said generates almost $900 of taxes.

Meanwhile, in the Russian River watershed, Janet Pauli continues to advocate for enough local funding to raise Coyote Valley Dam and keep more water closer to home. The lake is managed by the Sonoma County Water Agency, because Sonoma County put in a great deal more money at the dam’s inception than Mendocino County did. “Locally, we have to take this responsibility  or our water responsibility on ourselves,” she said. “And we probably need to do it while the drought is still fresh in everybody’s mind, because...if we have another three or four really wet years, everyone will forget.”