The California drought is a big challenge for hospitality operations across the state. For some owners, though, dealing with the drought requires some extraordinary measures.
At the Alegria Oceanfront Inn and Cottages in Mendocino, it means relying on regular water deliveries, along with the cooperation of guests. The property—actually, two locations across the street from each other—traditionally relied on groundwater from wells at each site. But, as the state experienced a prolonged dry spell, the groundwater supply was no longer viable.
“Water supply has been a little marginal in Mendocino forever,” said Eric Hillesland, who along with his wife Elaine owns the 10-room Inn in Mendocino Village. “But the shortage over the last several years has gotten worse to the point where we always have to buy water to refill our storage tanks.”
Prior to last year, the Inn started its water buys through Mendocino County in late August. But the situation is now severe enough that “we pretty much buy water all year round,” he said.
Trucking in that water—3,500 gallons a week—has also gotten more expensive.
The price of the water itself has remained relatively stable, he said, but the trucking costs have soared. In part that’s because the drought has also affected water supplies across Mendocino, so other local wells can’t provide a supply; even some other towns along Highway 1, like Fort Bragg, are no longer an option. These days, the main source for trucked water is Ukiah, an hour away.
“It’s always been expensive, paying for the trucking cost, but now the cost has doubled,” he said.
The Inn has adjusted to the water issue in several ways, including rarely watering the landscaping, especially during the summer. They also have switched to using microfiber sheets, which require less water to wash because more sheets can be accommodated in each wash load. They also take advantage of having laundry facilities at both locations, and thus can do laundry at whichever location has available water.
It’s also important to have conversations with guests upon their arrival, he said, to let them know about the water situation and ask them to be water conscious, especially to listen for dripping faucets or running toilets that would quickly waste a lot of water.
“We don’t ask them to change their habits, just to be cognizant of water use,” he said. Many of the Inn’s guests are from California, so they are already accustomed to dealing with drought, but even those from out of state “have been very good about it,” he said.
With the potential of a severe water shortage this summer, Hillesland hopes the Inn won’t be forced to close off some of its rooms as a conservation measure. The Inn began purchasing trucked water in the winter, and he remains confident that Mendocino County will be able to negotiate enough supply so that doesn’t become necessary. But even if that’s the case, he said, “water is going to be horrendously expensive.”