Sonoma Water E-News
2020 Temporary Urgency Change Order
Flexibility in water management approved by State
In response to the third driest year on record in our region and water supply projections that show the potential for Lake Mendocino to decline to critically low water storage levels, the State Water Resources Control Board today approved Sonoma Water’s request to provide flexibility in how water releases are made from Lake Mendocino and flows are managed in the Russian River. The Temporary Urgency Change Order (Order) allows Sonoma Water the flexibility of reducing Russian River flows to 50 cubic-feet-per-second (CFS) in the upper Russian River and 60 CFS in the lower Russian River. If water storage in Lake Mendocino drops more than one percent below the target water supply storage levels, the Order authorizes Sonoma Water to reduce flows to 40 CFS in the upper Russian River and 50 CFS in the lower Russian River. Lake Mendocino is currently about 2,000 acre-feet above target water supply storage levels. If water levels continue to remain above the target water supply storage by a similar buffer, flows in the upper Russian River would be managed near 70-75 cfs and near 80-85 cfs in the lower Russian River.
In June, Sonoma Water filed a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) with the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce Russian River minimum in-stream flows this summer. With the Ukiah region facing its third driest water year on record, Lake Mendocino’s water supply is projected to reach critically low levels due to dry conditions and reduced water transfers from the Potter Valley Project. The reduced Potter Valley Project water transfer is forecasted to put Lake Mendocino’s water supply levels into a critical condition. This critical condition is concerning for communities and agriculture that rely on Lake Mendocino for their water supply and could threaten water quality conditions for endangered fish species migrating in the fall up the Russian River. Minimum in-stream flows requested in the TUCP would help preserve water supplies in Lake Mendocino and protect the fall migration of endangered fish. 
Sonoma Water Director James Gore said, “Sonoma Water needs every tool in its toolbox to ensure our regional water supply system has sufficient supplies to both meet urban water demand but also protect endangered fish species in the Russian River. The requested reduction in minimum flows is one tool that will help us meet our goals of balancing water for people and fish this year. Another important tool is water conservation. Our community has done a great job saving water and we encourage everyone to continue with their water saving efforts.”
Sonoma Water has launched a public awareness effort to increase community education on how the Russian River water supply system operates and the importance of saving water and its impact on the water supply system. Listen to our radio public service announcements at
In addition, the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership, a coalition of Sonoma Water’s retail water contractors, have launched an annual saving water public education campaign. The campaign includes radio and newspaper public service announcements educating the community about water saving best practices. Our region continues to meet state conservation goals and has lowered water use from 130 gallons per capita per day (GPCD) in 2013, to 107 GPCD in 2019. That is well below the state’s 2020 conservation target of 129 GPCD for our region. Learn more about the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership and how to save water at .
Sonoma Water General Manager Grant Davis said, “The Temporary Urgency Change Order will preserve water storage in Lake Mendocino. By preserving storage, we can better maintain the cold-water pool at Lake Mendocino to improve water quality conditions for migrating endangered fish from the ocean into the Russian River. We will also have more flexibility to manage our regional water supply system.”
Minimum in-stream flow background:
Sonoma Water controls and coordinates water supply releases from Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma to implement the minimum instream flow requirements in water rights Decision 1610, which the State Water Resources Control Board adopted in 1986. Decision 1610 specifies minimum flow requirements for the Upper Russian River, Dry Creek, and the Lower Russian River. These minimum flow requirements vary based on water supply conditions, which are also specified in Decision 1610. The Decision 1610 requirements for the Upper Russian River and Lower Russian River are contained in term 20 of the Water Agency’s water-right Permit 12947A (Application 12919A). The Decision 1610 requirements for the Lower Russian River are contained in term 17 of the Water Agency’s water-right Permit 12949 (Application 15736) and term 17 of the Water Agency’s water-right Permit 12950 (Application 15737). The Decision 1610 requirements for Dry Creek and the Lower Russian River are contained in term 13 of the Water Agency’s water-right Permit 16596 (Application 19351). Sonoma Water’s operations are also subject to the Russian River Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service on September 24, 2008.
Supporting Data:
  • Ukiah rainfall to date: Ukiah is currently experiencing the third driest water-year on record with a total 14.67" of rainfall which is 40.2% of normal
  • Ukiah average rainfall through July 22: 36.28"
  • Ukiah average rainfall for the entire water-year is 37.03"
  • Lake Mendocino storage level as of July 22: 69.4% of water supply storage curve 
  • Lake Pillsbury, owned and operated by PG&E, is currently facing critically low water levels and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently permitted PG&E to reduce the amount of water released from Lake Pillsbury into the Potter Valley Project to protect fish species in the Eel River. 
Be the Change with Daily Acts
The Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership is proud to be a promotional partner to the Daily Acts Be the Change campaign to save water resources. For six weeks beginning at the end of June Daily Acts is focusing the Be the Change campaign on saving water resources and will be sharing information and tips on water-wise practices like harvesting the rain, reusing greywater, and installing thoughtfully designed drip irrigation systems. Accompanying these resources are six different actions that you can pledge to do to save water resources.

1.      Sheet mulching
Sheet mulching is a simple and effective alternative to lawn removal by composting it in place, while at the same time building soil health and preventing weeds.

2.      Rainwater harvesting
Rainwater harvesting involves diverting roof water runoff into tanks or barrels where it can be stored for later use.

3.      In-ground rainwater storage
In-ground rainwater storage involves diverting downspouts into rain gardens and swales in the landscape. Retaining rainwater onsite recharges soil moisture, and reduces peak stormwater flows and the pollutants these flows carry to creeks.

4.      Greywater
Greywater systems reuse household wastewater generated from laundry machines, showers, tubs, and bathroom sinks to water plants in the landscape.
Daily Acts and Greywater Action will present a free DIY laundry-to-landscape webinar on Wednesday, July 22 at 6:30 p.m.

5.      Drip irrigation
Drip irrigation can be used to apply water to your plants efficiently. Daily Acts and
Kris Loomis of Sonoma Water will present a free drip irrigation webinar on
Thursday, July 30 at 6:30 p.m.

6.      Water-wise plants
Water-wise plants are adapted to our summer dry climate and need 70-90% less water than lawn. When shopping for plants look for the Water Smart Plant label at participating local nurseries or pick-up a deck of Water Smart Plant cards. For inspiration on your garden design check out the free Landscape Design Templates or take a virtual tour of the gardens on the Eco-Friendly Garden Tour.
Saving water ensures water for what you love!
After receiving the third lowest rainfall on record this rainy season, saving water now will help maintain enough water for what we love and for the coming years should the dry spell continue.

What do we love? We love gardening and growing our own fruits and vegetables. We love the Russian River and the threatened and endangered Coho salmon and steelhead that call it home. And we love the recreation and connection to nature the river provides from swimming to kayaking to stand up paddle boarding or just a leisurely float.

Using water more efficiently at home and at work will leave more water for the river and our reservoirs. For tips, incentives and help with improving your water efficiency, visit the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership (Partnership) website at

Keep an eye out for advertisements in print, online and social media from the Partnership reminding you that “Saving water ensures water for what you love”!
Saving water tips for summer
Due to the low rainfall this past winter, the practice of saving water is ever more important this summer. Although we encourage everyone to implement everyday water saving practices both inside and outside your home or business as a way of life, we all need to do more this summer to reduce water use. Every drop saved helps improve water flows in the Russian River and extend reservoir storage levels.
Water saving tips include;
  • Turn off the water while shaving, brushing teeth or washing dishes.
  • Take 5-minute showers or less.
  • Repair any water leaks inside your home including toilets, faucets and showerheads.
  • Run the dishwasher and clothes washer with full loads only.
  • Install high-efficiency toilets and low flow showerheads.
  • Plant low water use and native plants that require less water.
  • Irrigate between midnight and 6:00 a.m. to reduce water loss from evaporation and wind. 
  • Inspect and tune-up your sprinkler system monthly. 
  • Install a weather based, smart irrigation controller.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway, deck or patio.
  • Cover pools and hot-tubs to reduce evaporation.

Want to learn more about ways to save water?
The national EPA WaterSense program provides in-depth information on a variety of water saving topics for homes and businesses. For local water saving tips and resources, visit the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership website.
City of Santa Rosa
increases rebate incentive for replacing lawns
The Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership (Partnership) represents 12 water utilities in Sonoma and Marin counties that have joined together to provide regional solutions for water use efficiency. The utilities include the Cities of Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Sonoma, Cotati, Healdsburg; North Marin, Valley of the Moon and Marin Municipal Water Districts; Town of Windsor, California American Water – Larkfield District and Sonoma Water (Partners).

Each of the Partners have water conservation programs that can assist customers in reducing their water use. As an example, the City of Santa Rosa recently announced an increased rebate amount for their Cash for Grass program, making this summer’s stay at home a perfect time to upgrade your landscape to a beautiful outdoor living space by replacing your lawn with a low water use garden. 

Whether you’re a customer of Santa Rosa Water or one of the other Partnership agencies, there are a variety of rebate incentives available to help you make water conservation a way of life. 
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