solar panels
Education programs about SCWA's sustainability efforts

As part of its Carbon Free Water by 2015 commitment, SCWA has implemented numerous programs throughout Sonoma County.  These programs aim to reduce the District's energy usage while conserving water and restoring the natural environment. Click on the tabs below to learn more.

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energy independence
Energy Independence

In March 2009, the County of Sonoma and the Sonoma County Water Agency established a financing mechanism called Sonoma County Energy Independence Program (SCEIP). SCEIP helps residential and commercial building owners fund water and energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy installations.

SCEIP projects are financed by applying a permanent lien to the property, which means that the lien stays with the building rather than the owner. Legal authority for SCEIP as a financing mechanism was established in 2008 by AB 811, which encourages municipal financing of energy efficiency, water efficiency, and renewable energy retrofits.

SCEIP has already met with great success. As of January 2010, the program received nearly $40 million in applications and reinvested $19.8 million in Sonoma County’s economy through 627 projects on existing homes and buildings. Energy and water efficiency has been improved with the installation of low‐e windows, insulation retrofits, upgraded furnaces, cool roofs, and water heater replacements, among others. SCEIP has also supported the adoption of distributed renewable energy resources through funding for photovoltaic systems, solar hot water systems, and solar attic fans.

With SCEIP’s successful implementation, this financing method has received nationwide attention as a cutting-edge best practice, providing an efficient and affordable new way to dramatically reduce residential and commercial energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, while simultaneously stimulating local economies and creating green jobs.

QWEL water conservation
QWEL 2007 water audit head adjustment
Water Conservation

The Agency’s Water Conservation Program develops and implements an array of programs designed to save water and reduce wastewater flows into its sanitation systems. These programs includ the Qualified Water-Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) Program and the High-Efficiency Fixture Direct-Install Program. The Agency is also participating in a statewide campaign called “Save Our Water.”

The Qualified Water-Efficient Landscaper Program (QWEL) targets landscape water use by engaging landscape professionals to improve water efficiency through better landscape design, maintenance, and operation. Landscape water use is one of the largest sources of urban water demand and an important piece of the efficiency puzzle for SWCA. The program provides 20 hours of training on principals of proper plant selection for the local climate (xeriscaping), irrigation system programming and operation, and irrigation system components and maintenance... QWEL is one of two US EPA WaterSense Irrigation Auditor Certification Programs in the nation. The program was developed in cooperation with the California Landscape Contractors Association, Sonoma County Water Agency, City of Santa Rosa, Marin Municipal Water District and the colleges of Santa Rosa and Marin.

The High-Efficiency Fixture Direct-Install Program offers free installation of high-efficiency plumbing fixtures to commercial, residential, and multi-family customers in eligible service areas.

The program offers installations on the following fixtures:

  • Toilets: replacement of high-flush toilets (defined as 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf) or more) with low-flow toilets (defined as 1.1 gpf or less) from the Agency’s Qualifying HET Model List
  • Urinals: replacement of urinals (defined as 1.0 gpf or more) with a high-efficiency urinals (defined as 0.125 gpf or less) from the Agency’s Qualifying HEU Model List
  • Faucets & Showerheads: replacement of all high-flow faucet aerators and showerheads with high-efficiency models (defined as 1.5 gallons per minute or less).

"Save Our Water" is a statewide public outreach and education campaign that helps participating communities introduce easy-to-implement water efficiency tips to residents and businesses . Save Our Water is supported by Governor Schwarzenegger, the Department of Water Resources and the Association of California Water Agencies. The Agency will run the campaign's advertisements in its service area, including Sonoma and Marin counties.

Fleet hybrids
Fleet plug-in hybrids
Climate Action

All nine of the cities in Sonoma, along with the County itself, have pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). As the largest energy user in Sonoma County, SCWA recognizes its capacity to contribute significantly to Sonoma County’s energy goals and impacts on the environment. Accordingly, the Agency has taken several actions to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Energy Audits – In 2008, the Agency created a program called the Wine Industry Greenhouse Gas Accounting. This program provides free energy audits to help wineries identify areas of improvement and help them prepare for AB 32 regulations. As of 2009, the Agency had contacted all wineries located in Sonoma County to offer an audit. For more information about the online accounting tool used in the audit process, visit the Wine Institute's website.
  • Fleet Vehicles – The Agency purchased its first hybrid electric vehicle in 2006 and subsequently had Hymotion convert the vehicle to plug-in technologyBy late 2009, hybrids and plug‐in hybrids made up 22% of the Agency’s 147-vehicle fleet. The Agency installed 13 charging stations in between its administration building, its operations and maintenance center, and the Sonoma Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant, to support its plug-in vehicles.

In 2009, the Agency initiated the Sonoma County Local Government Electric Vehicle Partnership to promote a county‐wide charging station infrastructure to support the use of electric vehicles and reduce greenhouse gases. This partnership aims to enable and encourage the purchase of 1,000 electric vehicles in Sonoma County.

By providing wineries with the resource to account for their greenhouse gases and by reducing vehicle emissions within their own fleet, the Agency has demonstrated a proactive approach to corporate and community emission reductions.

Russian River instream flow and restoration
Watershed Restoration

SCWA currently operates the Russian River Instream Flow and Restoration (RRIFR) program and has proposed a North San Pablo Bay Restoration and Reuse project as part of its commitment to watershed restoration. Both efforts are designed to minimize and mitigate the environmental impact of SCWA’s operations.

Russian River Instream Flow and Restoration (RRIFR)

The Russian River Instream Flow and Restoration Project (RRIFR) is a fifteen year program to implement a biological opinion mandated by the National Marine Fisheries Service. With help from state and federal partners, the Agency will make changes to its operations to protect threatened and endangered fish in the Russian River and its tributaries. RRIFR encompasses the following changes:

  • Reducing summer time flow in the Russian River
  • Enhancing habitats in Dry Creek
  • Changing the management of the estuary where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean
  • Supplementing a regional restoration hatchery at Warm Springs Dam

The Agency holds numerous RRIFR public meetings to increase community outreach. For past public meeting presentations and for more information on this effort, visit the Agency’s RRIFR website.

North San Pablo Bay Restoration and Reuse Project

The proposed North San Pablo Bay Restoration and Reuse Project would reduce SCWA’s reliance on local and imported surface and groundwater and reduce discharges to San Pablo Bay by providing recycled water for agricultural, urban, and environmental uses.

If approved, the project would promote increased use of recycled water in Sonoma County's North Bay region and fulfill the following objectives:

  • Offset urban and agricultural demands on potable supplies
  • Enhance local and regional ecosystems
  • Improve local and regional water supply reliability
  • Maintain and protect public health and safety
  • Promote sustainable practices
  • Prioritize local needs for recycled water
  • Implement recycled water facilities in an economically viable manner.