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California Drought: Petaluma Lags in Meeting Water-Conservation Goal

PETALUMA (KPIX) -- Sonoma County residents have been cutting back on their water use for weeks to help with the drought, but one city seems to be struggling to keep up.

Petaluma said it needed to cut water use by 25%, and residents largely complied. The city, however, still has work to do.

"I checked my system, I opened up my water meter to see if I have any leaks and try to address them," explained a Petaluma resident who said his name was Reggie as he stood outside his home.

Reggie has done everything he can to save water, mainly by cutting back in his yard and gardens. And he says most of his neighbors have done the same.

"Most people have, I think," said Reggie. "I've talked to a couple neighbors who are thinking about having their lawns taken out."

But while Petaluma residents have been cutting back, the city as a whole is failing to meet it's 25% reduction target. And that is largely because of what is called institutional irrigation.

"Institutional irrigation is talking about public lands; that includes city parks, schools, and it includes the hospitals," explained interim Director of Petaluma Public Works Gina Benedetti-Petnic.

Benedetti-Petnic says the city is now cutting back in its 47 parks, and tightening up at city facilities. The other big users are said to be in the commercial sector. Petaluma is reaching out to them individually, asking them to cut back. So officials do know who the main offenders are.

"Yes, we have utility usage," said Benedetti-Petnic.

But so far, there is no plan to make that list public. The city says institutional use should drop significantly by the end of this month, which will come as good news to residents who have already done their part.

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