Why are we building new houses if we’re in a drought?

The population of California (like the rest of the world) is growing. In order to ensure there is enough housing for everyone to live affordably, the State of California determines projected population numbers then estimates how many housing units must be created to meet the housing demand. The State then calls upon cities to help, allocating each city a number of housing units they must create to support the growing population (this is known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation).

Simply put, the City of Sonoma, like all other cities in California, is required by the State to create housing units. The number of units changes as the State’s population projections change, but we must always follow their direction or we run the risk of the State revoking our land-use powers – which would mean the State could decide what can and cannot be built here.

Sonoma’s General Plan and Urban Water Management Plan help us project and prepare for future water use, including use associated with new housing units. We plan far in advance and have backup plans in place for droughts, which is a recurring condition in our region. Some of these backup plans include calling on our community to help conserve water, expanding the treatment and distribution of recycled water, and reliance on groundwater supplies when surface water allocations are curtailed.

Additionally, all new development is subject to the latest building code standards, which require water efficiency for indoor and outdoor water uses. The City also imposes a Landscape Water Use Efficiency Ordinance, which minimizes water use for irrigation.

Sonoma County’s three groundwater sustainability agencies, Petaluma Valley, Sonoma Valley and Santa Rosa Plain, released the Final Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) on October 1, 2021. The GSPs assess the conditions of the groundwater basin, analyze the basin’s sustainability over a 50-year period, and identify projects and actions needed to ensure the basin is sustainable by 2042. See the link below for more information:

Groundwater Sustainability Plan | Sonoma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency

Close window