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Healdsburg Leading the Way In North Bay Water Conservation

HEALDSBURG (CBS SF) -- Everyone in California has been asked to conserve water, but no one is doing it better than one community in the North Bay.

Healdsburg has cut its water use in half. Lake Mendocino provides the bulk of Healdsburg's water, and early in the summer there was talk of that lake simply running dry. Just the thought of that scared this city into an aggressive conservation plan.

"This is a field that's used for soccer practice, outdoor activities, part of this community park," said Healdsburg Utility Director Terry Crowley, standing on a brown Barbieri Brother Park. "Normally it would be very green and ready for activities, but this year is different."

Letting the park lawns die off was only part of the answer. To cut overall water consumption in half, Healdsburg set out to change the way residents think about their own water use.

"So, for us, there's a water budget for residential customers, 74 gallons, per person, per day," Crowley explained. "That's what they have to stay in, and most residents have been able to achieve that and better."

"They gave us a water budget to stick to, which I think is helpful for most people," said resident Linda Barber. "Rather than just having to cut it by a certain percentage."

Barber says the budget helped, but far more helpful are the city's deliveries of recycled water.

"We reduced our indoor water usage as well. But it would not have been possible to stay within budget without the recycled water," said Barber.

One community not faring as well with cutbacks is the city of Sonoma, where water use has dropped less than 4% versus last year. Ask residents there and they'll tell you they're trying.

"I've cut back 50% on my water," said Sonoma resident Carson Silkey. "In fact, our whole neighborhood has pretty much done the same thing."

The disparity from one community to another is sparking some conversation and some thoughts on why conservation in Healdsburg has been so successful.

"Well, I've talked with my neighbors about that, and we've had different ideas," said Barber. "In part, it might be because our situation was more dire than other cities, because where we get our water from. Other places, maybe north of us, didn't use as much water to start with and I need to reduce as much. Yeah, I'm not sure why."

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