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Water agency: ‘Drought is on’

In response to dry weather, low reservoir storage levels and drought-like conditions, a group of nine local water utilities is kicking off a unique winter water conservation campaign. The partnership has one simple message: The drought is on. Turn water off.

The Sonoma-Marin Water Saving Partnership, which includes the Sonoma County Water Agency and the cities of Cotati, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Windsor, and the North Marin, Valley of the Moon, and Marin water districts, hopes to increase water conservation through public outreach and water-saving tips.

“Last year was one of the driest years Sonoma County has seen in 120 years,” SCWA spokesman Brad Sherwood said. No significant rainfall is forecast through mid-January, he explained, leaving local water supply reservoirs at record lows, including the region’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma. Toward the end of 2013, Lake Mendocino and its low levels became a particular concern for the agency, so much so that SCWA asked the State Water Resources Control Board to allow for reduced flows in the upper Russian River to preserve water storage during the drought.

Mendocino County’s Board of Supervisors declared a drought on Tuesday, Jan. 7, hoping to receive state funds and assistance developing a drought plan. Cities like Ukiah and Hopland use water from SCWA-managed Lake Mendocino, which is at a record low. Meanwhile, the California Department of Water Resources announced that Gov. Jerry Brown, who convened a drought assessment task force late last year, is considering declaring statewide drought as early as next month.

Sonoma Department of Public Works Director and City Engineer Dan Takasugi said the city is addressing drought conditions on a conservation front with water savings rebates and public outreach through the Sonoma-Marin Water Saving Partnership.

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