Tag Archives: water storage

Santa Rosa water restrictions end for city residents 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa residents are out from under local water-saving mandates imposed two years ago in the grip of a nagging drought, thanks to an abundant water supply behind Warm Springs Dam at Lake Sonoma, officials said Wednesday.

Based on assurances that the reservoir behind the taxpayer-funded, $360 million dam west of Healdsburg can sustain 600,000 Sonoma and Marin county residents for three more potentially dry years, the City Council rescinded, effective immediately, the mandatory curbs on outdoor water use adopted in August 2014.

The council’s action followed last month’s ruling by the State Water Resources Control Board that local agencies with a three-year water supply could be exempted from state water conservation targets. Santa Rosa and five other Sonoma County water providers met that requirement, the Sonoma County Water Agency said at the time.

On Wednesday, the water agency confirmed in a forecast to the state water board that Lake Sonoma would hold a healthy 178,398 acre feet of water at the end of September in 2019, after three rain-poor years comparable to 2013 through 2015.

Brad Sherwood, the water agency’s spokesman, said the report “illustrates our region’s ability to meet water supply demands” over a three-year drought.

Read more at: Santa Rosa water restrictions end for city residents | The Press Democrat

Filed under Water

Storm fills North Bay reservoirs, easing region’s drought 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

With two Russian River reservoirs brimful of runoff from a prolonged storm, the North Bay region is nearing an end to its multi-year drought, a water management official said Friday.

“It looks like a March miracle,” said Brad Sherwood, spokesman for the Sonoma County Water Agency, which supplies water to 600,000 customers in Sonoma and Marin counties. “Our water supply system hasn’t looked this good in more than three years.”

Lake Sonoma west of Healdsburg, the region’s largest reservoir, was at 107 percent of capacity for this time of year, and Lake Mendocino, the far smaller reservoir near Ukiah, was at 117 percent, with both lakes the fullest they have been in early March since 2012.

The atmospheric river that delivered the latest rainfall offered not only significant drought relief, but also relented Friday afternoon, offsetting flood forecasts and giving the ground a chance to absorb water, Sherwood said.

The Russian River water system is independent from the network of major reservoirs and canals that serve most of California, which remains under mandatory water conservation measures.

Read more at: Storm fills North Bay reservoirs, easing region’s drought | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA

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Lake Mendocino nears winter capacity; Lake Sonoma close behind

Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Recent rainstorms have swelled Lake Mendocino, reopening the reservoir to motor boats for the first time since August, swallowing islands raised by the drought and bringing fresh hope to ranchers and water officials.

By Thursday afternoon, the lake had reached 98 percent of capacity for this time of the year, when some space is reserved in the reservoir to help with flood prevention.

Once the level hits 100 percent, dam managers must increase releases to keep it at that level, unless they are given permission to hold back additional supplies.

In March, the reservoir’s storage capacity will rise from 68,400 acre-feet to about 110,000 acre-feet, a change aimed at maintaining adequate water supplies throughout the dry season for people, fish and agriculture along the Russian River. The key to recovery from the drought is filling the reservoir to its maximum capacity in the spring.

Read more at: Lake Mendocino nears winter capacity; Lake Sonoma close | The Press Democrat

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El Niño not fizzling: More storms barreling toward California

Paul Rogers, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

Don’t even think about putting that umbrella away.

El Niño conditions may have peaked in the Pacific Ocean, federal scientists said Thursday, but powerful weather systems — like a new series of storms on track to soak the greater Bay Area over the next five days — have only just begun and will likely continue at least through May.

“This is the time of year when El Niño acts the most reliably,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the climate prediction center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in College Park, Maryland. “So we would certainly expect the impacts to continue well through the rest of the winter and into the early part of the spring.”

There is a 96 percent chance that El Niño conditions will remain through March, scientists at NOAA and Columbia University reported Thursday, and a 62 percent probability they will continue through May.

Simply put, that means the likelihood of regular storms across California and heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada will continue to be greater this year than in regular years, offering hope that 2016 may finally be the year that the state’s four-year drought — now starting its fifth year — is broken.

But, experts caution, a lot more rain and snow is needed.

Read more at: El Niño not fizzling: More storms barreling toward California – San Jose Mercury News

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Rooftop rain collection helps rural Sonoma County residents and salmon

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rain on the roof at Karl Andersen’s home in Bodega is more than a sweet sound of the season after four dry years.

It means he has enough water to irrigate his garden and greenhouse through the next fall, and that, in turn, means more water for the coho salmon in Salmon Creek, which meanders through the near-coast hamlet where Alfred Hitchcock famously filmed “The Birds” in 1963.

Rain runs off Andersen’s roof and through pipes into three green plastic storage tanks that hold a total of 15,000 gallons of water, a valuable amenity in a water-scarce corner of Sonoma County with California now officially in a fifth year of drought.

“They are just about ready to overflow for Christmas,” Andersen said last week, noting that December rains nearly topped off the tanks.

Because the state gets most of its rain in the winter and most of it escapes into the Pacific Ocean, the idea of capturing rainwater in tanks and ponds is gaining momentum, including a financial boost from Sonoma County’s two resource conservation districts.

The Sonoma RCD, which covers most of the county, and the Gold Ridge RCD, which covers the west county, are offering funds for the design and construction of water storage systems on rural homes and ranches in five watersheds that support coho salmon.

Read more at: Rooftop rain collection helps rural Sonoma County residents | The Press Democrat

Filed under Water, Wildlife

Lake Sonoma, Lake Mendocino get runoff boost from recent storms

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Drought-weary North Bay residents are getting an early holiday present from Mother Nature as sporadic December storms have boosted the water level in the region’s largest reservoir and set the stage for bigger gains if rain continues to fall.

Lake Sonoma, the key source of water for 600,000 customers in Sonoma and Marin counties, hit 66.9 percent of water storage capacity Thursday, up two-tenths of a point since Dec. 1 — a small but significant increase that marked the reservoir’s first uptick since June 30, when it was 81.7 percent full.

Water managers call that an “inflection point,” and Jay Jasperse, the Sonoma County Water Agency’s chief engineer, said it is “good news,” with better news possibly on the way.

The storms that have dropped just over 5 inches of rain in the Santa Rosa basin since Oct. 1 have essentially saturated the near-surface soil, allowing water to run off into reservoirs, a trend that appears to be happening to California’s largest reservoirs, as well.

“Runoff hasn’t been huge,” Jasperse said, declaring he is “cautiously optimistic” that soggy soil will keep most of the upcoming rain on the surface and draining into reservoirs.

More rain is expected Friday, over the weekend and continuing next week, consulting meteorologist Jan Null said. “A wet pattern is setting up,” he said, with no downpours but “consistent rain through the end of the year.”

Read more at: Lake Sonoma, Lake Mendocino get runoff boost from | The Press Democrat

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El Niño forecast boosts hopes for wet season

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Battered by a historic drought that has fed raging wildfires, shrunk reservoirs and prompted water curtailments and conservation mandates, Californians are yearning for relief.

It can only come from the skies, and now, with winter on its way, the question on the minds of more than 38 million Golden State residents is: Can El Niño, the weather phenomenon named for the Christ child, deliver meteorological salvation across the land, from the arid south to the normally damp north?

For the North Bay, where that answer is still highly anticipated, a shortfall on the wet forecast may not portend an immediately deepening disaster, as it could for much of the rest of the state.

The region draws its water from the Russian River and local wells, independent from the Sierra Nevada snowpack — the lowest in recorded history last winter — and the state’s major reservoirs, now 70 percent to 90 percent empty.

The North Bay’s major reservoir, Lake Sonoma, with a two-to-three-year supply when full, remains at more than 70 percent of its capacity.

Just an average amount of rainfall over the next six months in Santa Rosa — about 36 inches — would go a long way toward topping off that supply and other local reservoirs, significantly easing drought in the region, if not ending it, said managers of the Sonoma County Water Agency, the primary source of water for 600,000 North Bay customers.

Read more at: El Niño forecast boosts hopes for wet season | The Press Democrat

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Landowners along four Russian River streams to receive state order on water use

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The informational order applies to all properties, including vineyards and wineries.

Thousands of rural Sonoma County landowners will receive orders, starting this week, to provide state water regulators with details of their use of surface and well water, the latest step in an emergency effort to protect coho salmon and steelhead trout in four watersheds draining into the Russian River.

Letters from the State Water Resources Control Board will be sent to landowners in the Dutch Bill Creek watershed in west county later this week, followed by notices to landowners in the Green Valley, Mark West and Mill Creek watersheds by Sept. 4, board officials said.

At the same time, local landowners, including grape growers, announced Monday voluntary efforts to curtail water use or release more water into the four creeks.

The mandatory reporting will require landowners to submit information — including the location of their water sources and amount of water used monthly — within 30 days or face potential penalties of up to $500 a day, the water board said.

The information is needed to estimate the total demand on the four waterways and determine if additional actions are needed to protect fish imperiled by the state’s prolonged drought, said Erin Ragazzi, environmental program manager for the water board. Mandatory curtailments on water use could be imposed to safeguard juvenile fish that must survive in dwindling pools until the rainy season, officials said.

Stream flows in the four watersheds continue to decline and without more water many, and perhaps all, of the fish will likely perish, Kirsten Macintyre, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman, said Monday.

“We’re on the verge of losing an entire year of salmon,” said Gary Helfrich, a Camp Meeker Recreation and Park District board member.

Starting later this week, the district, which delivers drinking water to 350 Camp Meeker homes, plans to begin pumping 2,700 gallons an hour into Dutch Bill Creek, where small pools of water holding fish are growing smaller and warmer every day. Over the next three months, that water — which exceeds the district’s needs for residents — could add about 6 million gallons to the creek, he said.

Read more at: Landowners along four Russian River streams to receive | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living, Water, Wildlife

Don’t count on El Niño, rain could miss Northern California altogether

CBS SF-BAY-AREA

Don’t count on El Niño to end California’s historic drought. That’s the warning from one of California’s top water officials.

Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said El Niño could soak Los Angeles and miss Northern California altogether.

“Don’t count on El Niño,” said Marcus. “If we get an El Niño, worry about flooding and property damage, loss of life and all that.”

Marcus worries Northern Californians will back off their record-setting conservation because they keep hearing El Niño is coming to the rescue.

“We’ll take the water if it comes,” said Marcus. “I just don’t want folks to think they don’t have to conserve because El Niño will save us, or to not understand that a strong El Niño has a downside.”

Marquez says conservation remains the key. Fortunately, Californians exceeded the state’s water-saving targets in June. Some customers cut their consumption by more than 40 percent. She predicts the July statistics will be even better “because people get it, and their water agencies are helping them.”

Still, Marquez is optimistic Californians will weather this drought whether El Niño delivers or not. People just need to keep conserving.

“This is not your garden variety drought — not your mother’s drought, not your grandmother’s drought,” warns Marcus. “This is not only the drought of the century, this could be the drought of many millennia.”

Source: Don’t Count On El Niño, Rain Could Miss Northern California Altogether

Filed under Sustainable Living, Water

Feds OK plan to keep more water in Lake Pillsbury reservoir

Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Federal authorities have granted temporary flow reductions aimed at keeping more water in Lake Pillsbury, a small but crucial reservoir high in the Mendocino National Forest that supplies water to the Eel River, Lake Mendocino, the Russian River and the people, farmers and fish dependent on them. The move is aimed at ensuring healthier river flows into the fall.

The changes, implemented Monday by PG&E, which owns the reservoir, will remain in effect until June 18, providing sufficient time for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to collect and review public comments on the changes and make a final determination. A 15-day comment period began Monday. The amount of the flows will vary depending on factors that include how much water is in the lake.

Potter Valley Irrigation District board member Janet Pauli is happy with the decision and optimistic it will remain in place until Dec. 1, as requested. The district is dependent on a water diversion from the Eel River.

“It’s important,” she said of the effort to conserve the water until the next rainy season.

PG&E sought the change largely to maintain at least 10,000 acre feet of water in the reservoir through the fall in order to prevent its banks from sloughing, downstream turbidity and potential blocking of its outlet. There currently is about 38,500 acre-feet of water in the reservoir. An acre-foot is about enough water to fill a football field a foot deep, or supply one household with 893 gallons of water a day for a year.

Environmentalists, water agencies, fisheries officials and farmers hope that holding back water in the reservoir now will mean there will still be water flowing in the fall.

Read more at: Feds OK plan to keep more water in | The Press Democrat

Filed under Water, Wildlife