Well Monitoring Program

Clarification for the Well Monitoring Program

Several questions have arisen regarding the Well Monitoring Project, so here is clarification.

1)    This is a citizen science project, and not at all mandatory, and is not related to metering. This project is entirely voluntary, and opt-in only, not conducted by any agencies, but by residents. It is an effort to see how the water levels are responding to various stresses, including climate change. We are in no way assuming that everyone wants to be a part of this, and we will only be measuring water depth in a maximum of ~25 wells. The aquifer is a shared natural resource, and monitoring the water levels provides us with valuable data about the health of the overall water situation in Bennett Valley. If it proves out that the trend is declining, then we may need to rethink the way we manage our water—but our little citizens’ group will not be dictating anything! Only measuring a handful of wells. 

2)    This is NOT a metering program! In regard to mandated metering, use limitations or charging for water, the area of Bennett Valley is not designated as a medium or high groundwater basin and there are currently no requirements for the use of water in the Bennett Valley area.  There are three medium groundwater basins within Sonoma County that include the Santa Rosa Plain, Petaluma Valley and Sonoma Valley that have prepared Groundwater Sustainability Plans for the sustainable use and management of the shared resource.  At this time there is a assessed cost of $40 per parcel per year for the programs that are being implemented within those basins.  Bennett Valley is not within these basins and there are currently no such requirements nor costs. 

3)    In Bennett Valley, there are no limits to the use of water for residential, agricultural or commercial uses.  We would encourage readers to review information at the three Sonoma Groundwater Sustainability Agencies that can be found at https://santarosaplaingroundwater.org/.  We also also encourage you to consider joining our citizen efforts to measure the seasonal changes of groundwater in your well so that you can be informed of the conditions at your property and for which I assume that you fully rely upon for your residential water use.

4)    The capital Campaign we are mounting is for a one-time purchase and maintenance of a well depth measuring device.  We are seeking ~$1200 for this single purchase, which will be stored at the Grange Hall and used twice per year to measure wells of those willing homeowners whom have opted in to the project. Not mandatory, no pressure! Just a project to help us all learn about our shared water resource.

David Noren displayinging sample well monitoring trends

David demonstrates monitoring technique at the Grange wellhead

Well Monitoring Project Starting

Every Bennett Valley resident depends on a well! Wells are vitally necessary, and understanding how to measure the precious water under our feet is important to sustaining our access to groundwater.

We had a great turnout of well owners on April 29, keen to learn the basics of well monitoring. David Noren, an environmental consultant and manager of environmental services at EBA Engineering, has graciously agreed to assist the Bennett Valley Community in setting up a monitoring program here. David conducts a very successful long-term monitoring project for Sebastopol, and his enthusiasm and expert advice is much appreciated.


Over 30 Bennett Vallians gathered at the Grange Hall for the demonstration. After introductions, organizer Chris Gralapp described the loss of her well in 2010, and the subsequent tribulations of having a well re-drilled down to nearly 1000 feet. Four other homes in her neighborhood of ten properties had similar well issues, highlighting the vagaries of the Bennett Valley water table.


David displayed maps and charts supporting the complexities of water availability in Sonoma County in general, and in his area of west county in particular.  This data shows that some well levels are trending upward over time while some are clearly trending down. Many areas are unpredictable, so seeing the data spread out over the years is important to give a sense of the health of our aquifers to well owners and water managers.


The recently mandated Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires all California counties to form local agencies and develop sustainability plans, in the face changing (and, in some cases, depleting) water supplies. We are all ‘dipping our straws into the same milkshake’, so collecting and accurately tracking the groundwater levels twice each year will give us a clearer picture of the health of our aquifer.  


Operating from the Grange’s well head, David demonstrated several of the devices he uses to measure wells. The one most in favor is a tape device, a spooled insulated wire with a sensor at the tip. The spool is unwound into the well, and when the sensor encounters the static water level it signals with a beep, and the depth is recorded from the numbered tape. The Grange’s static water level was discovered to be good, at about 36 feet below surface. Lively discussion ensued, cogent questions from the group were discussed, and neighbors compared experiences.


A Well Monitoring Working Group is forming, under the auspices of the BVCA and the Grange, to train a small team of members as well monitors. The ultimate goal is to identify 20 – 25 wells around the valley to measure twice per year. The resulting data will be plotted on a spreadsheet, to identify static water level trends for the benefit of homeowners, and to share with Sonoma Water to help fill the ‘data-gap’ that exists for our area. The last comprehensive water survey was published using data from 1980—and there have been a lot of changes in BV since then, not only in population increase, but also in the climate change that is affecting us all.

Before the monitoring can begin, we need to acquire the equipment to do the work. To that end, BVCA will conduct a limited capital campaign to raise the approximately $1500 or so for the Water Level Meter. The monitoring team will be local volunteers whom David will train.  


Also, we will be seeking willing well-owners to opt-in to have their wells measured. Watch this space for more information as the project progresses!