Sebastopol council implements conservation measures for commercial, industrial businesses

By Zoë Strickland, Managing Editor, SoCoNews, July 29, 2021

water pitcher

Public works to come back with conservation recommendations for the city’s water tower accounts

Three weeks after it imposed a mandatory systemwide 25% water reduction for Sebastopol, the Sebastopol City Council is adding wording to its conservation measures to address how the city’s commercial and industrial businesses can do their part when it comes to reducing water use.

The newly-adopted restrictions, unanimously approved by the council during a July 28 special meeting, state that restaurants only serve water upon request, hotel and lodging establishments message about the drought, among other measures (see the sidebar for a full list).

Since the city’s water conservation plan largely addresses limitations on public and residential use, rather than commercial and industrial customers, Vice Mayor Sarah Glade Gurney broached the topic of setting restrictions on water use during the council’s July 6 meeting, receiving support throughout the council to direct city staff to come back with measures for businesses.

At the July 6 meeting, Councilmember Patrick Slayter noted that, while the percentage of water use from commercial businesses is largely below that of residential water use, “there’s no reason why we can’t come (up) with something.”

During the July 28 meeting, Slayter also asked that the city look into adding a requirement to the city’s vacation rental permit that states that vacation rentals be equipped with upgraded, water-saving plumbing fixtures to address long-term water conservation.

Selling Sebastopol’s water

While the resolution passed by the Sebastopol council Wednesday morning addresses the use of water by some Sebastopol businesses, the council’s conversation largely revolved around whether or not the city should continue to allow outside water accounts to purchase water from the city, and if those customers should have restrictions on how much water they can purchase.

“Recognizing the oncoming drought early in May, I discussed with the city manager and, per the city manager, we have not accepted any additional water tower accounts,” Sebastopol Public Works Superintendent Dante Del Prete said, adding that the city’s water tower sales from existing clients are still trending up, showing significant increases.

“These water sales definitely need looking into … but they do not jeopardize the water availability to our residents currently,” said City Manager Larry McLaughlin, noting that many of the city’s water tower accounts are used for drinking water.

McLaughlin said that the city will look into ensuring that the water purchased from the city is only being used for personal use, rather than agricultural, but said that he doesn’t recommend terminating water sales altogether because it would create “a tremendous hardship for people who rely on it for drinking water.”

“It’s not just drinking water — it’s water for showers, it’s water for other uses, it’s water for agriculture that’s part of our economy,” said Councilmember Diana Rich, asking that Del Prete make a report at a later date that delves deeper into the city’s outside water accounts specifically.

During council deliberation, Councilmember Neysa Hinton asked that Del Prete look into what conservation measures the city might be able to implement with regard to water tower accounts, such as possibly limiting the volume of water that account holders are able to truck out.

“I think everybody should be part of the ask,” she said, noting that Sebastopol residents are being asked to conserve water, so similar restrictions should be put on outside account holders.

“While the water tower accounts are considered a commercial connection, the additional measures passed are not relative to the type of use restrictions that were approved,” said Del Prete in an email following the meeting. “We will be researching options for conservation measures separately for the water tower and will return to council with potential recommendations for limiting the amount of water that is sold to water haulers.”

City of Sebastopol Water Restrictions for Commercial and Industrial water customers

  • Restaurants may only serve water upon request.
  • Restaurants must optimize the use of commercial dishwashers and wash full racks only.
  • Hotel and lodging establishments must message about the drought
  • Pressure washing (except for public health and safety) is prohibited unless a variance is obtained from the City of Sebastopol Public Works Department.
  • Water waste due to breaks, leaks, or excess use is prohibited. This includes leaking faucets, toilets, and appliances, as well as broken irrigation pipes, leaking irrigation valves, and broken sprinkler heads, and runoff from properties due to overwatering or misdirected sprinklers.

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