Hall Coalition in the News
County likely to expand inquiry into drilling wells long-awaited
report on water issues to be presented to Board of Supervisors
(Press Democrat, 6/12/01)
scrutiny of water wells in Sonoma County may follow today's
Board of Supervisors meeting, where a long-awaited study on
ground water demand will be discussed.
report states, in short, that county records on ground water
and well-drilling are woefully inadequate and outdated, and
it recommends more fact-gathering before any new policies are
The report by consultant Kleinfelder Inc. of Santa Rosa was
prompted by an increase in well drilling to support the county's
growing wine industry. The Board of Supervisors approved the
$33,000 study in October after hearing from many rural residents
that the pace of drilling was threatening their water supplies.
county's planning staff will recommend that the board demand
much more information from people who drill wells, and that
it study ground water demand in one of five areas in the county
where water is already scarce. In these spots, like in most
of unincorporated Sonoma County, residents rely on wells for
both domestic and agricultural water.
five water-scarce areas named in the report are the Joy Road
area near Occidental, west Dry Creek near Healdsburg, Mark West
Springs/Rincon Valley, Bennett Valley, and Kenwood/Glen Ellen.
These five areas were identified as facing the most risk of
diminished ground water because of the high degree of construction
activity and well drilling.
Wahl, a Joy Road resident who has been gathering information
about water use in his area, praised the report for its evenhandedness.
But he urged the Board of Supervisors to do more.
said at least 27 homes in his area already have problems with
ground water supply and quality, and many residents have been
forced to haul water by truck on a regular basis to meet their
needs. Yet the county continues to allow new wells in the area
because it has no legal authority to forbid them.
own well has declined in productivity by 40 percent in the past
12 years, he said. He knows one property owner who has drilled
four wells in an effort to find a total of 1 gallon per minute
of water output.
a very beautiful area, but everything is telling me things are
turning really bad, really quick,'' Wahl said.
officials familiar with the report could not be reached for
found that the county lacks information on ground water quantity
and quality. Even data on well location are inadequate, as records
include only property addresses, which do not show proximity
to other wells, septic systems or creeks. The county also has
no records on actual water use, and the consultant notes that
the county does not even have a geologist or hydrologist on
staff to review well applications.
staff recommendation calls for the county to require more information
from well applicants, including precise well location and water-quality
data, along with more rigorous pumping tests and an explanation
from the landowner of why a well is needed.
said the county, at a minimum, should also adopt rules that
would allow drilling permits to be rejected in water-scarce
areas. He also wants the Board of Supervisors to allocate money
so all five water-scarce areas can be studied.
some of these water-scarce areas, there should be a building
moratorium until the ground water availability is understood,''
added Stephen Fuller-Rowell, chairman of a water committee for
the Town Hall Coalition, a west county environmental group.
report will be discussed during the regular portion of the board's
meeting, which begins at 8:30 a.m. at 575 Administration Drive
in Santa Rosa.
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