The plants in Brigette Mansell’s front yard in Healdsburg have managed to stay green so far this summer, but she doesn’t dare use tap water to keep them alive.
Instead, his Japanese maple and vegetable patch are watered from a 550-gallon tank bordering his property filled with treated sewage delivered by a city truck, a new service provided by Healdsburg in response to the drought.
A recycled water lawn sign is posted in front of the tank to inform neighbors that it is for landscaping use only.
âAs we move into the summer, you need to assess and prioritize what you can save,â Mansell, 60, former mayor of Healdsburg, said of his factories.
Drought is nothing new in Sonoma County, where a drought emergency was declared on April 27 and many residents are aware of the water.
Water evangelists like Mansell go the extra mile to save water through recycled water initiatives and by spreading the word about water saving tips to their friends and neighbors.
âWe were told by Sonoma Water that this rivaled the drought of 1976-77, which was the driest year on record,â said Peter Marin, deputy director of water resources at Santa Rosa Water. “Water levels are very low at Lake Sonoma.”
Municipalities and water agencies have asked residents of North Bay to reduce their water use.
Reducing shower times, installing gray water systems, fixing leaks and having low-water landscaping are all small ways to make a big difference, Marin said.
âWe love our super savers,â he said.
Mansell tracks her water usage and last winter she fixed a leak near her house after noticing a significant increase in the amount of water used.
She has now reduced her consumption to about 51 gallons per day, which also includes her tenant’s consumption.
âI am proud of our water consumption,â she said.
Mansell spent around $ 700 at Harmony Farm Supply in Sevastopol on her reservoir, and she shares the recycled water with her neighbors.
Water cannot be discharged into the Russian River, so it is generally used for agriculture and landscaping.
There is no irrigation in her garden and she connects a hose to the reservoir to water the small plants.
âI think it’s going to make a difference in keeping my plants alive this summer, so I’m willing to invest in the tank to be able to have that water,â Mansell said.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone”
Mansell spent four years on Healdsburg City Council, which she said was education in itself about the city’s water system and resources.
She recently retired as an English teacher who spent 38 years in schools in the city of Santa Rosa, and the importance of water has even entered her classroom through literature.
âThe water is baptismal. It is an emotional cleansing. Water in a spiritual sense is literally refreshing, but also, psychologically, it just changes me, âMansell said. âWhether it’s stepping my feet in the Russian River, however shallow it is, or taking a quick shower, the water keeps me anchored to the land.
She gave birth to her twins in the water and noted how spiritually satisfying trips to the Sonoma Coast can be.
Ultimately, she has a deep respect for water as a resource – her Facebook photo is of a baseball cap that she modified to say, âHealdsburg, drought is here, save the water. Once it’s gone, it’s gone!
Mansell volunteered on June 12 with Sonoma Water employees to distribute drought relief kits at the Healdsburg Community Center. She wore the agency’s âDrought is Hereâ t-shirt and explained the kits to anyone with questions.
âHis energy was there all day and helped keep the place lively all day, until the last car that came for a kit. It rocks! âKris Loomis, senior program specialist in Sonoma Water’s water use efficiency department, said of Mansell.
Harsh times and drought kits
Free drought kits contain white buckets, a five-minute shower timer, low-flow showerhead, and self-closing garden hose nozzle. Loomis said she was impressed with Mansell’s ability to “send the message in many directions simultaneously.”
âShe walks with her own water-saving practices and shares her ideas and resources with her neighbors, friends and strangers,â Loomis said. “Brigette is a firecracker personality and is a water conservation squad leader.”
About 10,000 drought kits were distributed in Sonoma and Marin counties on June 12, according to Sonoma Water.
âThe volunteer party was so much fun because there are people who just say, hey, I want to help anyone who needs help saving water. Let me help you. I will make a video of what I did and I’ll help them, give them my email. You know, that sort of thing, “Mansell said.” We don’t need naysayers anymore. We need people willing to help people change their habits, little by little.
Mansell, last month, brought together a group of community members under a century-old oak in the valley on his property to discuss saving water.
âOur goal was livability, not profitability. Water should be for life, it shouldn’t be for profit, âMansell said.
One of the attendees was Dr BJ Fogg, bestselling author of âTiny Habits: The Small Changes That Changes Everything,â who helped facilitate the conversation.
The group generated 40 ideas for the community to alleviate the water crisis, and Mansell recently published the top 10 online and in local media.
# 10: âTo achieve water equity, utility users, households, should aim for gallons per day per person, not an overall reduction of 20%. “
Number 9 could spark more controversy: âThe city must stop ALL water connections on non-essential development. Difficult times demand it.
She has started a petition for this cause and has a water analogy to explain why she thinks this measure is necessary.
âWe have to do it because we are exploited here,â she said.
Mansell is also working online to reach out to the community in his crusade to save water.
She has created a Facebook page called Healdsburg Water Wise Volunteer Page, and she posts YouTube videos with water saving tips and drought information.
âWe are in the same boat, we have to work together,â said Mansell.