Sonoma Water E-News | October 2020
New Water Year Starts on Cautious Note
With a drier than normal previous Water Year and continuing water conservation efforts in place, Sonoma Water begins the new Water Year cautiously.

October 1 marks the start of the 2020-21 Water Year, which runs from October 1-September 30 each year. California’s 2019-2020 Water Year ended with below average rainfall and further demonstrated the impact of climate change on the state’s water supply. The Ukiah region had its third driest water year on record, which prompted Sonoma Water to file a Temporary Urgency Change Petition. This allowed the agency to reduce flows in Russian River if water storage in Lake Mendocino dropped more than one percent below the critical target water supply storage levels. To date water flows have been stable and usage during peak times has been offset with conservation efforts.

Water managers across the state, including Sonoma Water, will be monitoring weather forecasts regionally as 2020 closes knowing that Northern California received below average precipitation last year and some weather models indicate the 2020-21 rain year could also be dry. Storage in Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma are below target storage and average storage levels.

“We’re entering the new Water Year cautiously, and we will continue to encourage our customers to practice water conservation,” said Sonoma Water General Manager Grant Davis. “The Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership is working every day to remind our communities about the importance of conserving water resources and promoting long-term efficient water use.”
Water Smart Plant Inspiration!
Fall is the ideal time to plant in California because of its shorter days, cooler nights, and the prospect of fall and winter rainfall, all of which help to give new plantings a good start in life. Here are a few Water Smart Plant ideas to help you decide what to plant this fall.

Small Flowering Tree or Large Shrub
Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis) is a deciduous California native that offers year-round interest. The show starts with rosy pink blossoms in late winter to early fall, which are then followed by apple-green, heart-shaped leaves that remain into the winter months.

Small to Medium Flowing Shrub
Winnifred Gilman Sage (Salvia clevelandii ‘Winifred Gilman’) will thrive in hot sunny locations with good drainage, and reward you with fragrant foliage and deep blue whorls of flowers that will attract bees and other pollinators.

Rain Garden Perennial
California gray rush (Juncus patens) is a go-to species for the summer-dry rain garden! It will thrive in moist conditions and its roots will help to stabilize soil and filter stormwater runoff. It is also tolerant of extended periods of drought. The stiff upright foliage provide an interesting contrast amongst other plants.

For these and other Water Smart Plants, visit local plant nurseries that feature the Water Smart Plant  Label. Easily identify plants that thrive in our area with less water by looking for this label.
Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District
Local Hazard Mitigation Plan 
The Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District (District) is working with its stakeholders on an update of its 2016 Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP). An 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. The planning process must include public and stakeholder involvement.

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). In particular, staff will review the District’s vulnerabilities and risks, as well as the prioritized listing of hazard mitigation projects.

LHMPs are public documents that create a framework for risk-based decision making to reduce damage to lives, property, and the economy from future disasters, such as earthquakes, fires, and floods. Hazard mitigation is sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and their property from hazards. FEMA utilizes LHMPs to issue grant funding for pre-disaster and hazard mitigation projects.

If you are interested in following the LHMP preparation, approval, and adoption process or providing input, visit LHMP drafts, staff reports, public hearing notices, hazard maps, etc., will be posted there for public review.
Chinook Count in the Russian River
Sonoma Water Fisheries biologists have observed a total of 12 Chinook salmon at the Russian River Fish Ladder at the Mirabel Inflatable Dam. The first Chinook of the year was spotted on September 29.

Chinook salmon currently returning to the River are offspring of wild parents that spawned naturally in the upper 75 miles of the mainstem or in Dry Creek.

Unlike many steelhead and coho salmon in the Russian River, there is no hatchery production of Chinook salmon. Fish returning to spawn are two to four years old.

Spawning typically commences in November and continues through January. Eggs incubate in the gravel for roughly two months before fry emerge and begin their downstream migration to the estuary.

Sonoma Water trapping and marking studies have shown that most juvenile Chinook salmon enter the Pacific Ocean by July of their first year of life.
Water Education Program & Resources for Teachers
Sonoma Water will be offering a distance learning program for 5th grade students this fall!

We are offering four engaging lessons where our staff will live Zoom into your virtual classroom and lead your students on virtual tours of our water system and the Russian River ecosystem.

Our four areas of study will include:
  • Exploring our Local Ecosystem- The Russian River watershed

  • Water quality testing and the natural history of salmon and steelhead in the Russian River watershed

  • Sonoma Water's water supply and transmission system

  • Making a difference - Conserving water and caring for the Russian River watershed
Rainfall and Water Storage Update 
Current water supply conditions as of 10/7/2020:
Lake Mendocino Target Water Supply Curve: 62,508 acre-feet
Current Storage: 39,100 acre-feet (62.55% of Target Water Supply Curve)
Lake Sonoma
Target Storage Curve: 245,000 acre-feet
Current Storage: 178,996 acre-feet (73.06% of Water Supply Pool)
Current rainfall conditions (10/1/20 – 10/6/20)
Average (1894-2020 water years): 0.24”
Current Water Year: 0.00” which is 0.00% of average
Santa Rosa:
Average (1950-2020 water years): 0.13"
Current Water Year: 0.00” which is 0.00% 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.

Upcoming Board meetings:
  • October 20 at 8:30 am
  • November 10 at 8:30 am
  • November 17 at 8:30 am

Board Agendas: 

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

Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board Meetings
  • October 22, 2020, 4:00 pm - Petaluma Valley
  • October 26, 2020, 4:00 pm - Sonoma Valley
  • October 29, 2020, 1:00 pm - Santa Rosa Plain
Fact of the Month

Why do hydrologists need their own way to classify a year when the January-December calendar has been functional for hundreds of years?

The simple answer has to do with the way the water cycle works. The setup for next year's hydrologic "action" takes place starting in the prior fall, not January, and precipitation that occurs toward the end of the calendar year often does not impact flow in streams and rivers until the following spring.
Employment Opportunities

We invite you to explore the career opportunities available with the Sonoma County Water Agency.
  • Water Agency Engineer III (Closes October 28, 2020)

  • Water Agency Maintenance Worker I - Extra Help
Public Comment Opportunities

Please click the button below to see opportunities to provide your input and comments.
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