Santa Rosa orders sudden curtailment for farm irrigators after miscalculation on recycled water supply

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Kent Porter / The Press Democrat

Doug Beretta is facing a water crisis this summer that he could not anticipate.

The Sonoma County organic dairy owner typically irrigates 200 acres of hay with about 80 million gallons a year of recycled wastewater from Santa Rosa’s regional plant on Llano Road. Beretta, who first turned to recycled water nearly four decades ago as a dry-season source, jokes that during particularly dry times, he asks his city friends to “just flush your toilets twice, so I can irrigate.“

And typically for dairy farmers like Beretta, along with about 60 other local agricultural water users ‒ growers of livestock feed, wine grapes, and vegetables —it has been a reliable and cost-effective way to keep their crops growing when the rains let up. But not this year.

That’s because Santa Rosa miscalculated its stored water forecast near the beginning of the irrigation season, leading to sudden limits on water use that farmers say will cost them dearly in an already dry year.

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