Tension over new development rises amid water scarcity in Healdsburg

By Mary Callahan, The Press Democrat, August 23, 2021

“The way [former Healdsburg councilwoman and mayor] Brigette Mansell sees it, the drastic water conservation measures already required of those who live in Healdsburg make it obvious the city needs to stop and think about how much more it can grow.

“But with more than 500 planned and prospective units in the pipeline — more than half of which would be sold at market rate — they want the city to suspend water hookups until officials have a more realistic grasp on balancing water supply and demand.

“Mansell said large projects currently in the works, like the Mill District and North Village — both of which are combined housing and hotel developments — were authorized in part because of an erroneously rosy supply outlook contained in the city’s 2015 Urban Water Management Plan, which is required to be updated every five years by state law.

“ ‘We’re only asking what the state is asking for our town, which is a viable plan that shows that we can in fact supply the businesses and residents of Healdsburg,’ [Mansell said].

“Lake Mendocino is at the second-lowest level it has ever been and shrinking week-by-week. And the city, despite having some of the oldest, most senior water rights in the Russian River watershed, has recently been ordered to stop drawing any more water than is necessary to meet its residents’ basic health and safety needs.

“[Healdsburg Utilities Director Terry Crowley] said the updated Urban Water Management Plan now being drafted will account for what’s now understood about life under climate change and the more extreme conditions it creates, as well as the kinds of conservation efforts and mitigations the city will have to face going forward.”

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