Like most of California, Sonoma Valley's natural beauty and pleasant weather is coupled with the Mediterranean climate that brings mild, wet winters and dry summers. The lush hills that sprout wildflowers in winter and spring turn to golden waves of grasses studded with oaks in the summer. A defining characteristic of this climate is less rainfall than other parts of the continental United States, especially when compared to the midwest and east. And if you look at the locations around the world that have this kind of climate - such as California, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, South Africe, and Australia - you can see that it also allows for the growing and making of exceptional wines.
While residents have adapted to living in a more arid climate - note the use of less water-intensive plants at businesses and houses - here are some tips for travelers to Sonoma Valley on how to be water wise like a local:
- At a restaurant, only ask for water if you are going to drink it. Many restaurants won't automatically bring out water.
- At your hotel or inn, if you don't need housekeeping to change the bedding, request that they hold off until after you leave if you are only visiting for a few days.
- When taking a shower, take a short one and turn off the water when lathering up. Then turn it back on to rinse off.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, if you listen to the dentists. And listen to the water district by turning off the tap as you brush.
- Buy a re-fillable water bottle and refill it from a watering station. Sometimes bottled water comes from locations far away from where you are traveling AND the company may not be as conscious about the water supply as the local water agency.
If you want to visit some places that have interesting exhibits on how to be water-wise as well as showcase Sonoma Valley's unique ecology, be sure to check out:
Sonoma Garden Park: This unique park is in the City of Sonoma and run through a partnership with the Sonoma Ecology Center. Their Low Impact Design tour showcases tools like rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation, native plantings and more.
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: Visit this state park, also run by the Sonoma Ecology Center, to see where the Sonoma Creek starts it's journey as it drains the Sonoma Valley and heads to San Pablo Bay. Excellent exhibits and guided hikes explain the valley's ecology. This is also a great place to go camping in Sonoma Valley and you can even rent a tent if you don't have your own!
Sonoma Community Center's Waterwise Garden: The Community Center is a hub for activities and classes (fiber arts, dance, ceramics, theater) AND has an amazing demonstration garden that is water wise and showcases how to adapt your own home to use less water. The gardens are also a great place for weddings and events - so "I do" want to save water, and check out their romantic "secret garden."