20 Aug 2014
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Marin Water Officials Join North Bay Drought Campaign

Program aims to use humor to educate the public about conservation.

Marin Water Officials Join North Bay Drought Campaign

By James Lanaras

Bay City News

Local water utilities in Sonoma and Marin counties have launched a public education campaign to conserve water during the current drought.

The  Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership will use local and regional publications in the North Bay, radio stations and online media to educate the public about outdoor water conservation tips.

The humorous and creative advertisements include a photo of "The official car of 2014" -- a dirty vehicle with "Don't Wash Me" written on the back window.

A broom sweeping leaves on the ground is "The official hose of 2014" and an eye dropper is labeled "The official drip irrigation of 2014."

"We hope this campaign will create a buzz in the local coffee shops and get our community to not only talk about saving water, but take action by following some easy water saving tips.

Every drop of water matters at this point," said Jake Mackenzie, a Rohnert Park City Councilman and Chairman of the Water Advisory Committee.

The Marin Municipal Water District and the Sonoma County Water agency are among 10 agencies involved in the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership.

The slogan of the unusual wintertime public outreach efforts is "The Drought is On. Turn the Water Off."

The Sonoma County Water Agency, which manages water supply storage within Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma, said 2013 was one of the driest years the county has seen in 120 years, and no significant rainfall is forecasted through mid-January.

The lakes are at record low levels. Lake Mendocino is at 38 percent of water supply capacity and Lake Sonoma is at 67 percent.

Water releases from Lake Mendocino are being managed by the State Water Resources Control Board, which has allowed the Sonoma County Water Agency to reduce flows in the upper Russian River to preserve water storage during the drought.

The water level in Lake Mendocino is reliant on rainfall and water diverted from the Potter Valley Project, which has been reduced by more than half.

The lake is the key drinking water source for Ukiah, Hopland, Healdsburg and Cloverdale, and it supplies water to the Sonoma County Water Agency's Russian River Water Supply system.

The water releases from Lake Mendocino also are crucial to Chinook salmon and steelhead trout in the Russian River in the fall and winter.

Lake Sonoma is four times larger than Lake Mendocino and can supply multiple years of water during the current drought. It is the source of the majority of the Sonoma County Water Agency's supply.

The water supply situation appears less dire for two other Bay Area water districts.

The Mokelumne River watershed in the Sierra Nevada is the source of 90 percent of water to the East Bay Municipal Utility District, and because of heavy rains last year, EBMUD reservoirs are still two-thirds full.

Precipitation since July in the Mokelumne River Watershed was 4.5 inches, or 26 percent of average.

EBMUD could declare a drought emergency if storms do not replenish the reservoirs this winter, the district said.

The 10 local reservoirs on the Santa Clara Valley Water District are at 33 percent capacity, which is 66 percent of the 20-year average, spokesman Marty Grimes said.

Some of those reservoirs are very low and creeks may dry up, Grimes said.

Groundwater storage accounts for about half the district's supply and levels are in the normal range, Grimes said.

The groundwater is a back-up supply for use during multiple fry years, Grimes said.

Fifty-five percent of the district's water supply is imported from sources that include the Delta and the Hetch Hetchy water system, Grimes said.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has an ongoing conservation program that includes using gray water from clothes washers for irrigation, Grimes said.

"It's still very early in the winter," Grimes said.

"We'll be going before the district board on Feb. 11 to give a water supply outlook based on whether it will be a dry winter or whether we'll get more rain," Grimes said.

The Department of Water Resources has informed 29 public agencies they will receive only five percent of the slightly more than four million acre-feet of water in 2014.

The agencies supply more than 25 million state residents and more than one million acres of irrigated farmland.

The DWR's first survey of the winter on Jan. 3 found the snowpack's statewide water content at about 20 percent of average for this time of year.

The water content of the snowpack in 2012 also was 20 percent of the historical average, and the readings this month and last year are the driest on record, the DWR said.


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