As we experience our third year of drought, many community members are concerned that we won’t have enough water to serve existing and new development in the future. A White Paper on Water Availability and Conservation explores these issues and concludes that yes, there is adequate water for both existing development and the small amount of new development we are projecting in our General Plan Update. The report also examines projections on the possible effects of climate change on our long-term water supply.
The Novato Municipal Water District (NMWD) receives 80% of its water supply from the Russian River, with additional water supplied by Stafford Lake and, to a smaller degree, the recycled water facility. The report finds that the large water supply storage capacity in Lake Sonoma (245,000 acre-feet) has allowed us to “weather” three years of significant drought (in June 2014 the reservoir was at 73% of its capacity). In considering climate change, projections suggest there will be greater extremes in rainfall – years of above normal rainfall and successive years of drought. The large capacity of Lake Sonoma, which would replenish in wet years, should allow Novato and southern Sonoma County to survive multiple years of extended drought.
Water demand has been decreasing over the last few years and is substantially less than what the Water District had projected back in 2010. In fact, the Water District has already met its State-mandated goal to reduce per capita water use by 20% by 2020. The decrease in water use is due to both a lack of new development and greater conservation. NMWD’s conservation programs and rebates appear to be effective, as are new building codes requiring higher-efficiency fixtures and limiting potable water used for irrigation.
Both the Planning Commission and City Council accepted the report in June 2014, concluding that:
- North Marin Water District’s water supply and contracts are sufficient to serve existing and anticipated residents and businesses into the future,
- Despite three years of drought, the storage capacity of Lake Sonoma provides a significant buffer in our water supply for extended drought,
- North Marin Water District has been a leader in conservation requirements and incentives and has already achieved the state-mandated 20% per capita water reduction required by 2020,
- New development is far more efficient in its use of water due to more stringent building codes
- and state laws, and, due to the significant connection fees they pay, are funding the creation of the recycled water infrastructure used to further offset new potable water demand, and
- Projections of the effects of climate change on our local water supplies suggest an increase in weather extremes – both seasonally wetter and drier years.
As a result of these conclusions, no additional options presented in the white paper were deemed necessary at this point.