Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Recharge

The gifts have been opened, the parties enjoyed, the feasts have been eaten. But before you relax, spend some time thinking about how you can reduce, recycle, and reuse the waste that was generated during the holidays. An additional one million tons of waste is generated between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Giving a second life to products allows us to enjoy the holiday season while still being earth-friendly. Here are a few examples of how to help:

Reduce: It’s likely you have a stack of catalogs that were delivered pre-holidays – now is the time to cancel those you don’t need. When you purchase drinks and snacks for New Year’s and Super Bowl parties, buy in bulk. You can reduce food-packaging waste by substituting large bottles of soda for individual cans or bottles. You can eliminate a major source of plastic waste by skipping bottled water altogether. Pitchers of iced tap water (flavored with cucumber, lemon or lime slices) are less expensive and much better for the Earth. Many breweries refill growlers, allowing you to buy local while reducing the use of individual beer bottles or cans. Items such as individually wrapped candies, chip bags, and other snacks generate a lot of waste and bulk options are usually available.

Recycle: Christmas trees can be recycled into compost and mulch. After the holidays place your Christmas tree curbside for pick up. Before recycling, your tree must be free of flocking, tinsel, decorations and its stand. Wrapping paper, greeting cards, cardboard packing and other paper products can be recycled in your curbside recycling cart. Keep in mind, foil‐backed, metallic, and plastic wrapping paper CANNOT be recycled.

In Sonoma County, fruit and vegetable food scraps can be put in the curbside yard debris cart for the municipal composting program. In Ukiah and the adjacent unincorporated area of Mendocino County residents can place food waste along with green waste into the green waste bin.  You can compost your fruit and vegetable food scraps from your holiday dinners and parties at home, too. Recycle the cooking oil, if you deep fry a turkey. Check out our website at for locations in both Sonoma County and Mendocino County that accept clean strained cooking oil for biodiesel production.

When purchasing a new electronic device, ask the sales staff at the electronics store if they will take your old device back for recycling. In some areas, small electronic devices can be disposed of in the curbside recycling. Check with your local garbage company for more information. Recycle your old cell phones. State law requires that retailers selling cell phones take back used cell phones at time of purchase.

Reuse: Save ribbons and large pieces of wrapping paper to reuse on next year’s packages. Many local packaging stores and mail centers are glad to accept styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap packaging for reuse. If that old iPad or laptop still works, consider donating the device to charity.

Recharge: About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away and can save money in the long run. By law, retailers selling rechargeable batteries are required to take back used rechargeable batteries from their customers. For a list of these retailers, visit the Call2Recycle website at

Old batteries cannot be disposed of in the garbage. Some stores offer take‐back for alkaline batteries, in addition to rechargeables. Ask the sales staff where you buy your batteries if they will take your used ones back for recycling. All kinds of household batteries can also be disposed of through Sonoma County’s Household Toxics Program and the Mendocino County HazMobile Program. In Mendocino County, household batteries can also be disposed at the Ukiah Valley Transfer Station.

In the future, brighten your holidays while saving money with LED lights. LED’s use 75% less energy than conventional holiday lights and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. They also offer convenient features like dimming and automatic shut-off.

For any questions about recycling and year‐round disposal options:

In Sonoma County, visit, call the Sonoma County Eco‐Desk at 565‐DESK (3375), or look for your Sonoma County Recycling Guide printed in “The Real” Yellow Pages phone book under Recycling.

In Mendocino County, call the Recycling Hotline at 468‐9704, visit


This article was authored by Ann DuBay, Sonoma County Water Agency, with much of the content provided by the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Stewarding the Electronic Dinosaur from Cradle to Grave

Electronic waste has become the fastest growing waste stream in the WORLD.

When discarded, the toxicity of electronic waste functions as an eroding agent on clean water, healthy soil, and fresh air. The impacts of improperly disposed e-waste are measurable, harmful, and applicable on a global scale. The general cause and consequence of its mismanagement seem to be shared equally among manufacturers and consumers alike. One cause being the fact that most electronic devices experience a life cycle that overturns as rapid as advancing technology will allow it to be. Another cause is the fact that these devices can be inconvenient to dispose of properly due to limited drop-off locations and/or expensive disposal fees. The consequence is a growing stockpile of obsoletes that can leach toxic discharges into places like our drinking water supply.

The cradle‑to-grave stewardship of our electronic dinosaurs is disappointing.

How you can help:

  • Hold on to electronics longer to reduce demand.
  • Donate items that can be refurbished or reused, otherwise recycle.
  • Form an outreach campaign and/or organization to increase awareness in your neighborhood.

The rate at which technology refreshes has become so advanced that many consumer electronics sold in the US are rendered outdated within a year. Annual sales in the US are over 200 billion dollars and growing. As one would reasonably correlate, the annual production of e-waste is growing in near magnitude. Cradle stages are brief, characterized by a consumer electronics industry spending nearly 4 billion dollars a year in advertising. By repeatedly soliciting to us the concept that newer is necessary, we have become conditioned to anticipate the release date of the model 5001 while the model 5000 in our pocket is still under warranty. Overnight our gadgets become a dinosaur; functionally extinct and thrust into the grave stage.

Disappointingly, the grave stage is even more brief. As it stands today, our electronic relics are seldom tossed away with the ecological dignity that recycling or reusing would provide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 3 BILLION tons of electronics are disposed of each year, and only 25 percent are recycled. The vast remaining become deposited into landfills where they begin to leach into the water, soil, and air. Any hazardous qualities contained within them such as arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury are unrestricted in their travels. Roughly half of the states in the US have enacted e-waste legislation, and the options available for proper disposal are improving but are still very limited and oftentimes expensive. In most places, batteries and cell phones can be taken back at no charge to their place of purchase. Free take-back events and curbside pick-ups are available at certain times of the year.

If you suspect that what you’re about to throw into the trash may contain an electronic component, just set it aside for a moment. Contact your City or trash service provider for guidance. Look online for drop-off locations ( or and special take-back events in your area. The moment that we define our electronic device to be electronic waste, is the same moment we become stewards of our vitality.

This article was authored by Nick Bennett, of the City of Rohnert Park, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Fats, Oils, and Grease Down the Sink Ruin Municipal Sewer Systems and Private Septic Systems

Pouring fats, oils, and grease (FOG) down sinks can ruin your home or restaurant’s plumbing systems and have negative impacts on municipal sewer systems and private septic systems. FOG includes:

  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Fats from pay-frying meats,
  • Sauces
  • Butter and margarine
  • Food scraps

Don’t dump that FOG down your sink! FOG combine into solids in your plumbing system and downstream in the public sewer or septic system. Primary problems include: partial or total flow blockage, contamination of downstream water resources, repair costs, snapped sewer pipes, and increases in sewer bill price due to an increase in operation and maintenance cost for the municipal sewer company. In September of 2017, an 800‑foot‑long mega-FOG-blob was discovered weighing 130 metric tons[i]. The City of New York spent $18M cleaning up FOG blobs in 2016. On September 28, 2017, one-million gallons of sewage was released into a stream in Maryland after a 130-ton FOG blob that was 300-yards long clogged the sewer system[ii]. For more information watch the video: FOG buildup is a big deal and will have a negative impact on your sewer system.

What can you do instead?

  1. For best results, pour excess grease into a container with a tight-fitting lid for storing. Use a scraper or spatula to remove all the grease from the pan. Freeze it, or allow it to harden on its own, and throw the hardened oil away on trash day.
  2. Don’t rinse greasy dishes! Before washing, use a paper towel to remove small amounts of grease or cooking oil, and then simply throw the paper towel in the trash.
  3. If you have a restaurant or other business which generates FOG, check with your local building department on requirements for installation of grease interceptors/grease traps.

For more information on the recycling or proper disposal of fats, oils, and grease, along with lots more great information on how to keep your community clean, in Sonoma County contact the Eco-Desk at (707) 565-DESK (3375) or go to; and in Mendocino County call the Solid Waste Management Authority at (707) 468‑9704 or go

This article was authored by Brian Wallace of LACO Associates, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.


[i] National Geographic (2017) “Huge Blobs of Fat and Trash Are Filling the World’s Sewers.” Accessed 10/23/2017.

[ii] USA Today (2017) “Fatberg of grease, wipes blamed in Baltimore sewer outflow.” Accessed 10/23/2017.

The Street Sweeper – Our First Line of Defense

The sound of the street sweeper is music to my ears. As the street sweeper drives down the street the sound of the street sweeper vacuum unit reminds me that the sweeper is our first line of defense in preventing debris from entering the storm drain system.  By keeping debris out of our storm drain system, the street sweeper is doing its part to prevent debris from entering our creeks and rivers.

What does a street sweeper collect?

The street sweeper collects all loose material from our streets and gutters. This material may include trash, leaves, dust, nails and screws, oils, particles from brake pads and brake shoes, and debris from worn out asphalt pavement. The street sweeper is also used to collect and remove broken glass and other debris from traffic accidents. In addition, the street sweeper may be used to collect material left behind after a spill. Without a street sweeper, this unwanted material might eventually find its way into the storm drain system and ultimately end up in the receiving creek or river.  In Ukiah alone, the street sweeper collects and disposes of approximately 800 tons of debris on a yearly basis!

How does a street sweeper operate?

The street sweeper is basically a motorized vacuum cleaner. A separate engine powers the gutter brooms which rotate and pull debris from the curb and pavement for easy removal by the vacuum unit. This separate engine powers the high-power vacuum unit pulling the loose debris from the streets. As the sweeping and vacuuming process takes place, water is applied to keep dust from street sweeping at a minimum level.  Occasionally a tree branch will become lodged in the vacuum unit and cause a trail of debris to follow the street sweeper. Upon noticing this, the operator will stop and clear the tree branch from the unit.

What can you do?

As a citizen and good neighbor, it is important for all to do our part. You can help by moving your vehicle(s) from the street before street sweeping day. Please contact your local Department of Public Works to learn the schedule for street sweeping in your neighborhood. Also, do not sweep leaves or place lawn cuttings or other debris onto the street. In Ukiah, as in most jurisdictions, ordinances prohibit depositing debris on the sidewalk, in the gutter, or on the street. Please use your green bin for all leaves and yard waste. If you observe broken glass or other debris on the street, please notify your Department of Public Works.  If you are driving, use caution when overtaking a street sweeper on its route.

Please remember the street sweeper is your friend. It is doing its part to keep our streets clean and tidy and to prevent unwanted debris from entering our creeks and waterways.

This article was authored by Rick Seanor of the City of Ukiah on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Creek Week Volunteer Opportunities

Throughout the Russian River watershed, the third week of September is recognized as Creek Week. This year Creek Week is from September 16 to September 24. During Creek Week, creek, river and ocean clean-up campaigns will take place throughout Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. The Russian River watershed consists of over 150 creeks which provide water supply, wildlife habitat, flood capacity and recreation. Unfortunately, trash and debris accumulation in local waterways impair water quality, wildlife habitat and, at times, recreation and flood capacity. This is a great opportunity to take part in activities that connect you with your community and environmental practices that help protect our creeks.

You can contribute to the health of the Russian River ecosystem by participating in one of the creek and river cleanup events listed below!

Santa Rosa residents are invited to participate in the City of Santa Rosa’s Instagram contest. Post a photo next to a ‘Ours to Protect’ sign where a street crosses a creek with #OursToProtect and #SantaRosaWater to win weekly giveaways during the month of September. Every Thursday during the month of September one photo will be selected to win a $100 Sonoma Outfitters gift card (City of Santa Rosa residents only).

September 16

  • 33rd Annual Creek to Coast Cleanup at the

Location: Prince Memorial Greenway on the Olive Park Footbridge near 1698 Hazel Street, Santa Rosa

Time: 9:30 am to noon

Learn more:

  • Cotati Creek Clean-up

Location: Cotati Well Lot #2, between 8560 and 8561 Lakewood Ave, Cotati

Time: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Learn more:

  • Russian River Cleanup

Locations: McCarty’s Bar and Grill, 6951 East Road, Redwood Valley

Time: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm

RSVP and learn more: or contact Deborah with Mendocino County Resource Conservation District at 707-462-3664 x 106 or

  • Ukiah Creeks Cleanup

Locations: Oak Manor Park, Ukiah

Time: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm

RSVP and learn more: or contact Deborah with Mendocino County Resource Conservation District at 707-462-3664 x 106 or

  • Hopland Area Russian River Cleanup

Locations: The intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 175, Hopland

Time: 8:30 am to noon

RSVP and learn more: or contact Ken with North Coast Fire & EMS Training at 707-570-9226 or

  • Cloverdale Area Cleanups

Locations: Cloverdale Regional Park and Trail, Geysers Road, River Park at Crocker Bridge

Time: 8:30 am to noon

RSVP and learn more:

  • Healdsburg Area Cleanups

Locations: Riverfront Regional Park, Magnolia Lane to Highway 101 Bridge, Syar Plant Beach, Badger Park, West Soda Rock Road, Alexander Valley Campground Beach

Time: 8:30 am to noon

RSVP and learn more:

  • Guerneville Area Cleanups

Locations: Steelhead Beach Regional Park, Moms Beach Regional Park, Sunset Beach Regional Park, Rio Nido Beaches, Johnson’s Beach area

Time: 8:30 am to noon

RSVP and learn more:

  • Coastwalk Sonoma County Coastal Cleanup

Locations: Doran Regional Park, Jenner Beaches, Bodega Bay Beaches

Time: 9:00 am to noon

RSVP and learn more:

September 18

  • Guerneville Weekly Town Cleanup

Location: Guerneville Town Plaza

Time: 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Learn more:

September 23

  • Monthly Santa Rosa Creek Cleanup

Location: Prince Memorial Greenway at 105 Olive Street

Time: 10:00 am to noon

Learn more:

  • City of Healdsburg Foss Creek Cleanup and Smart Living Fair

Location: West Plaza Park, Between North Street and Matheson Street in Healdsburg

Time: 8:00 am to 1:00pm

RSVP and learn more:

This article was authored by Nazareth Tesfai, of the Sonoma County Water Agency, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Creek-Friendly Home Improvement and Yard Care

The days are long and warm, but many of us are anything but lazy. We are in our yards tackling our outdoor “honey-do” lists. We are refinishing our decks, painting our homes, and taming our yards. After painting the house, sanding the deck, or trimming back the landscaping it would be convenient to sweep or pour the mess into the storm drain (or gutter). The problem is that everything that enters the storm drain eventually flows into our creeks untreated. Some of the material may sit in the storm drain for a while during the summer, but when the rains come again in the fall, it will all be carried into our creeks. Our creeks are what so much wildlife calls home, and our creeks drain into the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Russian River. Pollutants and debris from our home improvement projects can harm the fish, birds and other life that live in our creeks.

Here are some ways you can protect the water quality of our creeks while checking items off your home improvement to-do list.

Never rinse your paintbrushes under an outdoor spigot. Rinse your used paintbrushes in a sink plumbed to sewer, not outdoors. When you rinse your paintbrushes in a sink, the rinse water will be directed to the wastewater treatment plant, rather than a nearby creek. If you have any leftover paint to discard, please take it to a paint recycling location. You can find a list of paint recycling centers by visiting the following website:

Power Washing
Even biodegradable soap can be harmful to aquatic life. Use water without soap whenever possible as you power wash. Plain water ejected at high pressure is usually enough to clean surfaces. If you do use soap, be sure to direct rinse water to landscaping if possible. If the rinse water is going directly into the storm drain system, please cover the storm drain inlet, trap the rinse water, and pump it into a sewer inlet. Discharging hot water into the creeks can actually kill aquatic life, so use cool water straight from the outdoor tap.

Swimming Pools
Swimming pool and spa water contain chlorine, and chlorine harms fish and other aquatic life. If you need to empty your swimming pool or spa, drain it slowly onto a landscaped area, if possible. Otherwise, drain it into a sewer cleanout. Please plan ahead and discontinue adding chlorine, but let your pool or spa sit for at least three days without adding chlorine before discharging it so that the chlorine will dissipate. If you cannot wait two weeks to discharge, please dechlorinate the water before discharging. You can call your local public works department for information about the requirements for dechlorination and discharge of pool and spa water to your sewer.

Yard Waste
For those of us living next to a creek, it is so convenient to dump our yard waste over the back fence! It seems reasonable; yard waste is natural. Unfortunately, piles of yard waste dumped into our creeks can cause flooding and smother the existing natural vegetation. Another mistake many residents make is sweeping their yard waste into the storm drain inlet. By clogging the storm drains with yard waste, we cause flooding. Most communities in Sonoma County have green waste curbside pick-up. Even if you live next to a creek, please use those green yard waste bins.

Pesticides kill. Well, they do. The purpose of pesticide (which includes insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides) is to kill a targeted pest. Unfortunately, pesticides can also kill beneficial insects and aquatic life. Please consider alternatives to applying pesticides in your yard. There are many alternatives to pesticide use. Visit the Our Water Our World website for more information on pesticide-free pest management:  If you must use pesticides, then please apply them sparingly and never apply them within 24 hours of forecasted rain.

For more information on how to protect our creeks while fixing up your home, click on the following link:


This article was authored by Cristina Goulart of the Town of Windsor for RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

5 Russian River Friendly Car Washing Tips

Can you wash a car without wasting water and harming the environment? The answer is Yes, if you plan ahead and understand that everything that’s been stuck to your car—gasoline, oil, heavy metal particles, tar, and particulate matter from exhaust fumes—has the potential to flow from your wash area to the nearest storm drain and eventually reach the Russian River. Here are five simple tips to “go green” while washing cars, without wasting water or harming the environment:

  1. Wash on a permeable surface (lawn, gravel, dirt). If you make only one small change in your car washing routine, let it be this! By moving your car wash to a flat non-paved surface, and away from storm drains, you allow the washwater time to be collected and absorbed into the soil where pollutants can be broken down naturally.
  2. Take your car to a commercial car washing facility. Most commercial car wash facilities will filter rinse water and direct it to a sanitary sewer where it will get treated and possibly reused (recycled water). Moreover, according to the International Car Wash Association, the average person washing a car at home uses a whopping 80 to 140 gallons of water, as opposed to the 45 gallons typically used at a car wash.
  3. Rethink your fundraising car wash. If you are a holding a community car wash on a paved area, plan to block the storm drains receiving the rinse water and pump the accumulated rinse water into a sanitary sewer inlet, or direct the water to a landscaped area where it can soak in. Before planning a fundraising car wash, please call your local municipality for the latest requirements and guidelines. You can get more detailed information by going to the following web links:   or
  4. Swap out cleaners for eco-friendly or homemade cleaners. There are several ready-made, ecofriendly car wash products available, some are even waterless. Homemade cleaners can save the environment and your money. Use natural ingredients like baking soda and vinegar. Try soaking a cloth with vinegar or denatured alcohol to soak and rub off dried bugs. Denatured alcohol will also remove tar and sap. Remember to rinse the treated area with water and rewax, as vinegar can strip a car’s finish.
  5. Increase the time between washing or try a self-serve car wash station. Bring your own eco-friendly car wash products to a self-serve car wash station where pressurized water dispensers help to control and reduce the amount of water used in your wash. Wastewater from your wash will drain into sewer grates for proper treatment.


This article was authored by Sabrina Barron, RRWA staff. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Santa Rosa Unveils Its New Sustainable Education Garden

The Sustainable Education Garden, located at Santa Rosa’s City Hall, will celebrate its grand opening June 20th from 10:00 ‑11:30 am. Join us for the ribbon cutting ceremony, refreshments, and a tour to highlight the innovative features built into this beautiful garden. Attendance is free, but please RSVP to

Funding from the State

The City of Santa Rosa received $806,174 in grant funds from the State Water Resources Control Board to create an educational garden that demonstrates on-site stormwater capture and treatment, and low water‑use landscaping. To create the final design, City staff, design professionals, and community members participated in open design sessions and a 30-day public comment period, with the project’s landscape architect. City engineering staff completed the civil design work.

Improving Water Efficiency

This project converted 34,000 square feet of lawn and ivy into drought tolerant, low water-use landscaping. Upgrades include replacing the old inefficient overhead spray irrigation system with a high-efficiency drip system, and installation of a new weather-based irrigation controller that will apply water only when the plants need it, preventing waste and supporting plant health. This smart controller also uses flow-sensing technology to detect leaks or breaks and will alert staff to issues. The landscape and irrigation improvements from this project reduced site water requirements by 54 percent.

Harnessing Stormwater

Stormwater runoff from the City Hall area flows directly into Santa Rosa Creek, which subsequently flows into the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Untreated stormwater runoff typically carries pollutants from parking lots and hardscapes to local waterways. Sediment, nutrients, bacteria, higher water temperatures and decreased dissolved oxygen from urban stormwater runoff can negatively impact water quality and aquatic habitat. Capturing, cleaning and infiltrating stormwater runoff before it has a chance to leave a site improves water quality, and protects wildlife habitat in our local waterways.

The City Hall Sustainable Education Garden includes carefully designed swales and bioretention features that will slow and capture stormwater runoff to naturally clean and improve water quality onsite. The diagram below shows how the new Low Impact Development (LID) features can remove pollutants before the stormwater infiltrates and recharges ground water: porous concrete rings installed around existing storm drain inlets capture stormwater runoff (1) and direct it into lined permeable rock trenches (2) and structural soil (3), where the plants in the bioretention planters (4) can then collect, absorb, and begin to treat stormwater.

Additional features include 4,100 square feet of permeable concrete paving throughout the garden and a 2,100-gallon cistern that will collect and reuse rainwater from the City Hall roof. This rainwater harvesting system provides a stormwater LID function by storing rainwater for slow release into the swale, effectively mimicking the pre-development conditions.

Enhancing Community Spaces

The design of the Sustainable Education Garden invites the public to enjoy the City Hall campus in new ways. Visit the open-air classroom that features seating for formal workshops or informal gatherings, or take a self‑guided tour using the educational signs around the garden, which explain the benefits of Low Impact Development and Russian River-Friendly landscaping practices. To learn more about the project, please visit

This article was authored by the City of Santa Rosa’s Water Use Efficiency Team, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

(Water) Bottle Shock

More than eighty-five million bottles of water are consumed every day in the United States.  What happens to those single-use, non-biodegradable, plastic bottles? The sad truth is, despite being recyclable, most of them end up in our trash, landfills and waterways. A recent trash survey for Windsor Creek removed thirty-four plastic bottles in a single 100-foot length of stream!

There is no doubt that the growing trend among Americans towards increased water consumption, relative to other beverages like soft drinks, is a good thing. However, consumer research has revealed a growing preference for bottled water over tap water.

The reality is, tap water is just as safe, much less expensive, and the more environmentally sustainable choice to hydrate our bodies. Next time you are getting thirsty, consider the following facts:

There is no guarantee that bottled water is safer than tap water

  • Tap water and bottled water are both regulated by the federal government. EPA regulates tap water, while FDA regulates bottled water. The list of monitored contaminants and acceptable levels are very similar.
  • The EPA requires that community water systems (suppliers of most tap water) provide Consumer Confidence Reports, which describe their water quality in detail and are publicly available to all consumers. The FDA does not require this of bottled water manufacturers.

Bottled water is FAR more expensive than tap water

  • If you buy bottled water for drinking all year, you’d pay about $1,400. That same volume of drinking water from your tap is only about $0.50.
  • Bottled water costs between 450 and 10,000 times the cost of tap water, depending on the brand and quantity of purchase.
  • A little-known secret: Up to 40 percent of bottled water comes from a public water supply! In some cases, additional purification is not used. Read the label of your water bottle, if it says it is from a community water system, it is tap water in everything but name and packaging.

 Bottled water use is harmful to the environment

  • The plastic material used to store bottled water (PET or Polyethylene Terephthalate) is non-biodegradable, and even though it is recyclable, as much as 85 percent of these bottles end up in the trash.
  • For every pound of PET made, 3 pounds of atmospheric CO2 is generated.
  • It takes as much as 3 gallons of water to produce 1-gallon of bottled water.
  • The equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil is required for water bottle production in the US, annually.

 So what can I do? Use a refillable water bottle!

Buy your own refillable bottle, fill it with tap water, and carry it with you. Then reuse the bottle. Make sure that any bottles you purchase are stainless steel or sturdy, BPA-free plastic, and that you are following the manufacturer’s instructions regarding storage temperature, and mode of cleaning.

If you don’t like the flavor of your tap water, or want to add another layer of filtration to it, opt for a pitcher-mounted or centralized filtration system. These can cost as little as $30. Adding final filtration to your tap water can improve flavor, add additional protection, and is still far cheaper than bottled water.

With the economical and sustainable lifestyle choice of reducing our bottled water consumption, we can collectively have an enormous impact on the amount of pollution entering our landfills and waterways, without compromising our confidence in the safety of what we consume



This article was authored by Jonathan Eller of GHD, on behalf of the Town of Windsor for RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Capturing Rainwater for Household Use

The rainy winter that we’ve experienced after a long drought has brought stormwater and rainwater management to the front of everyone’s mind. We’re challenged in California’s Mediterranean climate by the yearly cycle of rainy and dry seasons, as well as periodic drought conditions. One of the ways that these challenges can be met is through small rainwater catchment systems that capture rainwater from rooftops in winter and store the water for future use.

Rainwater catchment systems have great potential benefit to residents and the environment. Since the Rainwater Catchment Act of 2012 was enacted, Californians have been allowed to use rainwater collected from the roofs of buildings for beneficial purposes. Rainwater catchment systems for non-potable uses, such as garden and landscape irrigation, have been built in Sonoma County for years. The Sonoma and Gold Ridge Resource Conservation Districts, through the Russian River Coho Partnership and related efforts, have worked with numerous landowners in rural areas to develop these systems to provide better water reliability for residents, while improving stream flows for endangered Coho salmon.

The County of Sonoma recently took another huge step toward water resource sustainability. In January 2017, the Permit and Resource Management Department adopted a new code section that, for the first time, gives Sonoma County homeowners the opportunity to legally build systems that capture rainwater for potable uses, such as drinking and cooking. The adoption of Appendix K of the California Plumbing Code now provides a framework for homeowners and businesses in unincorporated Sonoma County to use rainwater for potable purposes. Such systems would require a permit, approval of which would depend on many factors such as allowable roofing material; maintenance, inspection, and monitoring requirements; and minimum water quality requirements. Nonetheless, residents of unincorporated areas of Sonoma County now have a pathway to apply for permits to build those systems legally. If you live within city limits, check with your local planning/permitting department to find out if potable rainwater is allowed where you live.

While the costs of a rainwater catchment system can be high relative to more common water sources such as a well or municipality, the benefits of rainwater in some situations may outweigh the costs. A rainwater catchment system can provide a secure, reliable source of clean water. Some wells in water-scarce areas may not be able to keep up with demand, particularly in drought years. A rainwater catchment system can bridge the gap between water need and water availability.

The benefits of rainwater catchment to the environment are diverse. Most buildings, particularly in urban areas, direct rainwater from the roof into a stormwater sewer system which then drains into nearby streams and rivers. A rainwater catchment system bypasses that system by capturing rainwater and temporarily storing it to be released in the summer. This reduces the building’s impact on the water cycle, which is helpful to the environment in several ways.

  • Decreasing the amount of rainwater that enters the stormwater system can:
    • Reduce flooding;
    • Reduce the soil erosion that pollutes the water and hurts coho salmon and steelhead; and
    • Reduce stream channel incision that can adversely affect groundwater level.
  • Increasing the amount, and changing the timing, of rainwater that soaks into the ground can:
    • Improve groundwater supply;
    • Improve streamflow in the summer, when it’s critical for fish and wildlife survival; and
    • Contribute to reducing carbon in the atmosphere by promoting plant growth.

There are, of course, some very important considerations before deciding to build a rainwater catchment system for your home or business:

  • How much water are you currently using? Are there any more ways to reduce the water you’re already using? Answering this question is the start of figuring how much water storage you need.
  • How much water can you collect from your roof? The size and configuration of your roof is another factor in determining the storage size. Use the following calculation to estimate the amount of water you can collect from your roof:
    Square footage of your roof x 0.63 x yearly rainfall in your area (in inches) = gallons you can collect annually (see Resources below)
  • How much space is available to store water? Property size, zoning restrictions, and the terrain surrounding the building are determining factors in figuring out the size of the system.
  • What is the cost/benefit ratio? Some homeowners pay a high cost to pump and treat groundwater, others must pay water trucks to bring them water in the summer. The costs that should be weighed against the potential benefit include: design of the system, permitting, construction, and maintenance. Depending on the location of the property, grant funding or rebates may be available to defray the cost of the system.


To determine the average annual rainfall in your area, refer to this map created by the Sonoma County Water Agency:

For general rainwater catchment, water management information and a list of technical assistance resources, municipalities, contractors and consultants, and rainwater system suppliers, see the resource section of the Slow It. Spread It. Sink It. Store It! Guide to Beneficial Stormwater Management and Water Conservation Strategies

California Plumbing Code Appendix K: Potable Rainwater Catchment Systems

This article was authored by Justin Bodell, of Sonoma Resource Conservation District, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.