Story Corps
Courtesy of Sonoma Water
photo credit: The CAP considers a range of possibilities in a future of changed climate.

Recently Sonoma County’s water agency released a plan that looks at threats to the county’s water supply from climate change.

According to Sonoma Water, it’s a plan to enable the county to “be ready for the changes that are coming and they're coming fast and we're already seeing,” said Dale Roberts. 

Roberts is principal engineer at Sonoma Water. The agency does three core functions, the primary being providing clean drinking water to 600,000 people. It’s also in charge of flood management and sewage collection and treatment. To come up with its new Climate Adaptation Plan, Roberts said Sonoma Water used the best available science to forecast what’s coming.

“We can expect to see a kind of flashier rainfall events, more precipitation coming all at once,” Roberts said. “Or it could be that no precipitation or minimal precipitation comes at all, as we've seen the past two years.”

Roberts said the agency is working on projects to save more surface runoff. 

“We want to capture that winter water and pump it in our system to our customers, perhaps have them recharge the groundwater,” Roberts said.

A lot of that surface runoff is going out to the ocean right now. Roberts said building new storage capability is not that easy.

“It takes decades to do the planning and the environmental and the permitting and the engineering to get a reservoir built and finding a place to put her reservoir,” Roberts said. “It is very controversial and can be a mess.”

The new plan positions Sonoma County so it’s eligible for all the grant money becoming available for climate resiliency projects, he said, and having a blueprint in place is the first step. 

“It's one of the first of its kind for a water district within California. We hope ours is a model, “Roberts said. “The cost of inaction will be too expensive, so we need to be proactive and be ahead of the game and meet these climate challenges head on.”


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