Sonoma Water E-News | February 2021
FIRO Helps Store More Water and Maintain Flood Protection
The Russian River basin experiences some of the most variable climate in the U.S., with atmospheric rivers and their extreme precipitation driving this variability. These storms provide 25-50 percent of annual precipitation in key parts of the West, which can replenish water supply, but can also lead to hazardous and costly flooding, with atmospheric rivers causing 84 percent of Western U.S. flood damages, and 99 percent of damages in Sonoma County. The science of forecasting atmospheric rivers has continued to advance, particularly in understanding the origin and evolution of these storms, through enhanced observations before they make landfall, and through better modeling and prediction. “The skill of forecasting atmospheric rivers and their associated extreme precipitation and runoff, based on scientific advances and modern technology, have been shown by this program to enable Lake Mendocino to be operated more flexibly than in the past,” said Scripps research meteorologist F. Martin Ralph, director of CW3E. “Even in the third driest year on record, this program demonstrated the ability to apply science to save water, which is essential for California given how common droughts are in the region.”

To address these challenges, FIRO leverages current and improved forecasts of atmospheric rivers and their associated heavy precipitation and streamflow, through tools developed as part of the project. These data and tools inform reservoir operations, allowing more proactive and adaptive adjustments to variable weather conditions in decisions to retain or release water. FIRO does not require reservoir operators to employ information provided by FIRO; it merely provides additional information to inform operational decisions. The program represents an innovative use of science, technology, and observations for operators to adapt to variable conditions without costly reservoir infrastructure improvements. “The Lake Mendocino FIRO project is an example of how multiple agencies can collaborate to collectively explore the potential of emerging technologies in observations and forecasts and create an adaptive strategy with multiple benefits for water management in a changing climate,” said Michael Anderson, state climatologist with the California Department of Water Resources.

“Sonoma Water’s interest in innovation, and our partnership with federal and state agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, generated a breakthrough in water management for Sonoma Water,” said Lynda Hopkins, chair of the Sonoma Water Board of Directors and Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “This comprehensive report demonstrates significant regional benefits for people, the environment, and the economy.”
Sonoma County Biomass Business Competition
In response to catastrophic wildfires and the need to reduce wildfire risk to manage for healthy watersheds and critical drinking water supply, Sonoma Water is collaborating with business leaders, forest experts, and public agencies to sponsor the Biomass Business competition, SoCoBioBiz. 

Sonoma Water supports innovative strategies that support the use of biomass for in managing healthy watersheds, clean water supply, and to reduce risk of catastrophic wildfire. Finding responsible and sustainable uses for biomass and rebuilding the wood products industry is good for the economy good for the environment and our communities.  

The BioBiz Competition will award $35,000 in startup funds to two local entrepreneurs to fund technical support services to implement their winning biomass business concepts. The competition seeks to turn wildfire risk in Sonoma County into an economic development opportunity. The Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District in partnership with Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center, Sonoma County Economic Development Board, CAL FIRE, Sonoma Clean Power, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Sonoma Water, and a coalition of support partners are investing in local entrepreneurs and existing small businesses to launch wood products businesses to incentivize forest health in Sonoma County. 

The goal is for the winning projects to work with state, regional, and local entities to support and provide a high-value end-use from excess forest biomass materials. The removal and utilization of the biomass will help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and the unhealthy air pollution impacts caused by wildfire smoke.  

Interested parties should go to the BioBiz website for additional information and to sign-up for e-mail updates at: www.Biomass.Biz. Biomass business plan submissions may be submitted Feb 1st through March 26, 2021. The competition has two phases of review and presentations with awards presented in mid-July, 2021. 
Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District (SVCSD)
Local Hazard Mitigation Plan 
Hazard mitigation planning reduces loss of life and property by minimizing the impact of disasters. A Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) forms the foundation for a community's long-term strategy to reduce disaster losses and break the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage. It begins with local public agencies identifying natural disaster risks and vulnerabilities that are common in their area. After identifying these risks, they develop long-term strategies to protect people and property from similar events. Mitigation plans are key to breaking the cycle of disaster damage and reconstruction.

The District must update its LHMP every five years to ensure it remains relevant to current events and system conditions and to meet regulations set forth by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District (District) is working with its stakeholders on an update of the 2016 LHMP. The District is required to review and revise its plan to reflect changes in development, progress in local mitigation efforts, and changes in priorities, and resubmit it for approval in order to continue to be eligible for mitigation project grant funding.

We invite you to participate in a community survey and provide us with your opinion regarding natural hazards in the Sonoma Valley area. The information you provide will help us identify and develop projects for the District’s 2021 Local Hazard Mitigation Plan. The results of the survey will be included in the LHMP.
EPA WaterSense Fix-A-Leak Week
Fix a Leak Week is March 15-21, 2021. Join Flo the Water Drop, the official mascot of Fix a Leak Week, in finding and fixing leaks in and around your home.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense Program sponsors this national campaign to serves as a reminder to check household plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems for leaks. Nationwide, more than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from homes each year.

Here in California, it is estimated that 14 percent of homes have or have recently had a leak, representing up to 18 percent of household water use. Sonoma Water and the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership invite you to “Save Water With Us” and follow Flo during Fix a Leak Week to find and fix leaks.

Flo’s favorite places to check your home for leaks:
• Review your water bill for unexpected changes in water use
• Check your water meter - it has a leak indicator
• Test your toilets for leaks - perform a toilet dye test
Rubber Dam is Lowered as Russian River Rises 
Sonoma Water routinely deflates the rubber dam near Forestville when Russian River flow forecasts show the river reaching 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) in order to prevent damage to the rubber dam from the high flows. When completely deflated, the rubber dam rests flat on the bottom of the Russian River.  

The rubber dam is located just downstream of the Wohler Bridge on the Russian River and is normally raised in the spring or early summer when water demands increase. The rubber dam creates a pool of water that enhances Sonoma Water’s well levels in the area. Permanent fish ladders provide fish passage when the rubber dam is raised and also allow Sonoma Water to count the migration of adult salmon and steelhead with its underwater video system located in the fish ladders.

Even with the wet weather, Sonoma Water encourages people to continue to use water efficiently. Now is the time to adjust or deactivate irrigation systems and to repair leaky faucets and toilets. Additional water conservation tips are available at the Sonoma Marin Water Saving Partnership website,
Rainfall and Water Storage Update 
Current water supply conditions as of 2/8/2021:
Lake Mendocino Target Water Supply Curve: 68,400 acre-feet
Current Storage: 29,696 acre-feet (43.42% of Target Water Supply Curve)
Lake Sonoma
Target Storage Curve: 245,000 acre-feet
Current Storage: 157,673 acre-feet (64.36% of Water Supply Pool)
Current rainfall conditions (10/1/20 – 2/7/21)
Average (1894-2020 water years): 23.01”
Current Water Year: 8.95” which is 38.9% of average
Santa Rosa:
Average (1950-2020 water years): 19.10"
Current Water Year: 8.94” which is 46.8% of average
Upcoming Events

The Board normally holds its regular meetings on Tuesdays, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and will be facilitated virtually through Zoom

•February 23, 2021
•March 2, 2021
•March 16, 2021

Board Agendas: 

Please visit for additional information on Coronavirus and fire recovery from Sonoma County.

Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board Meetings

Petaluma Valley - March 25, 2021, 4:00 pm
Sonoma Valley - March 22, 2021, 4:00 pm
Santa Rosa Plain - March 11 , 2021
1:00 pm tentative 

Fact of the Month

For every $1 invested in safe water and sanitation, a yield of $5 to $28 USD is returned in increased economic activity and reduced health care costs. Access to safe water stimulates the economy for the long-term.
Employment Opportunities

We invite you to explore the career opportunities available with Sonoma Water.

  • Fish and Wildlife Technician I - Extra-Help
  • Licensed Land Surveyor
  • Water Agency Supervising Right of Way Agent
Sonoma Water | 404 Aviation Blvd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403 |