Water agency takes steps to preserve water in Lake Mendocino

As the drought progresses in California, and as a dry 2013 left Lake Mendocino in dire condition, the Sonoma County Water Agency and the state are taking action to preserve the region’s water supply.

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has approved a petition to change how the water agency manages water supply levels and water release in Lake Mendocino, just northeast of Ukiah.

SWRCB issued an order that will allow the water agency to preserve Lake Mendocino’s diminishing water storage level by managing flows in the upper Russian River according to the reservoir’s water supply conditions. The board’s decision came as a response to the Temporary Urgency Change Petition filed by the water agency Dec. 19.

Lake Mendocino depends on annual rainfall and diversions from the Eel River watershed through PG&E’s Potter Valley Project. And 2013 was the driest year on record in Ukiah, with only 7.67 inches of rain since Jan. 1, 2013, compared to the annual area average of 34 inches.

“The effect of this decision will result in lower minimum flows in the upper Russian River and more operational flexibility for water managers working to preserve every drop of water in Lake Mendocino,” water agency spokesman Brad Sherwood said.

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