Sonoma County Water Agency E-News | October 2017
North Bay Fires: A Message from Mike Thompson, Water Agency Interim General Manager
October 19th, 2017
Mike Thompson
This week has been exceptionally challenging for our community as the region has battled many severe fires. My deepest condolences go out to all those affected by this disaster, especially those who lost a loved one or a home.

I am pleased to report that our systems are fully operational, and we have been able to increase water production to meet firefighting demands. We continue to provide safe drinking water to cities and water districts in our service area.

As we begin to shift gears from disaster response to recovery, our community faces a long path ahead.

To begin the recovery process the Water Agency, along with our regional partners, have begun to assess the potential ongoing impacts of burned areas to our infrastructure and watersheds. Water Agency Stream Maintenance staff are inspecting the impact of the burn areas on our flood control systems. Cal Fire is assembling a Watershed Emergency Response Team to identify erosion prone areas that could pose a threat to life and property. Other watershed groups are beginning to assemble to identify ways to help the watersheds recover.

During the emergency response I have been deeply moved by the team mentality and community support that I have witnessed, both between Water Agency employees and in our larger community. I am especially thankful for the Water Agency staff who worked long hours coordinating the response and assessing our facilities to ensure water kept flowing to our community and to assist in the firefighting efforts.

And our deepest thanks to the emergency response crews – the real heroes battling these fires.


Mike Thompson
Water Agency Interim General Manager
Comment Period Opens for Environmental Review of Occidental County Sanitation District Wastewater Transport Project
The Sonoma County Water Agency, which operates the Occidental County Sanitation District’s (OCSD) Wastewater Treatment Facility, has released an environmental analysis of a proposed project to transport the OCSD’s wastewater to the Airport-Larkfield-Wikiup Sanitation Zone wastewater treatment plant. The 30-day public comment period opens on September 29, 2017.
The proposed project would make minor modifications to existing facilities, and would allow wastewater to be transported from the OCSD facility to the Airport-Larkfield-Wikiup Sanitation Zone Wastewater Treatment Facility. The Initial Study and Negative Declaration (IS/ND) was prepared in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.
New Water Year Brings Continued Push for Better Seasonal Weather Forecasting
As the new water year begins, local regional reservoirs (Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino) remain full thanks to last year’s wettest water year on record. Last water year, a total of 52.58 inches were recorded in Ukiah; 142.26 percentage of average (1894-2016 water years). A total of 60.32 inches were recorded in Santa Rosa; 199.27 percentage of average (1950-2016 water years). The water year is defined by the U.S. Geological Survey based on river flows. It begins on Oct. 1 and ends on Sept. 30.

Lake Sonoma and Mendocino water supply levels remained well above average; Lake Mendocino is 137% of the previous 25-year average and Lake Sonoma is 106% of the previous 25-year average.

In anticipation of what the new water year will bring, the Water Agency is working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep as much water in our reservoirs as possible, while ensuring dam safety and flows for the Russian River fisheries. The Water Agency is also working to improve long range weather forecasts. This partnership includes working with the California Department of Water Resources and a multi-state coalition that includes water managers from states such as Arizona and Colorado. 

Skillful sub-seasonal (monthly) to seasonal (the water year) precipitation forecasting would support many facets of water management, providing lead time for preparing for extreme events and allowing for more efficient operation of water infrastructure. Current forecast practices and scientific capabilities for making skillful forecasts beyond the weather time domain, however, are limited.

The Water Agency is coordinating with the Western States Water Council (Council) to urge the federal government to place a priority on improving monthly and seasonal forecasting capability to support water management decision-making. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) service assessment in 2014 for the 2012- 2014 California drought identified the high importance that water managers and users place on improving (and using) seasonal precipitation prediction at the watershed scale. Great improvements in forecast skill have been made for weather forecasts over the past decades, but similar progress has not been made in monthly to seasonal forecasting. Weather models are run operationally out to two weeks ahead, although they are most skillful for timeframes of less than five days.
Water Supply Update
Water supply conditions in the Water Agency's two primary drinking water reservoirs as of 10/15/17:

Lake Mendocino : 119.1% Target Water Supply

Lake Sonoma : 88% of Target Water Supply
They’re back! Chinook return to the Russian River Fish Ladder
Adult chinook salmon were spotted for the first time this season in the Russian River Fish Ladder on October 5th, 2017. These chinook are returning to the Russian River Watershed from the Pacific Ocean. Scientists and technicians monitor fish using underwater video cameras at the Russian River Fish Ladder near Forestville.  

Click here to c heck out a video of chinook in the fish ladder!
This fall, keep an eye on our website where we will be posting updated chinook counts.   
Clean Energy Education Program
The Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors today approved a program to develop an Energy Education Program that incorporates energy efficiency and climate change into the existing Water Education program that reaches 10,000 students annually. The Energy Education Program will be jointly developed by the Water Agency and Sonoma Clean Power.

The Board’s action authorizes the Water Agency to develop, market and implement the $275,000 program, which will be funded by the Sonoma Clean Power Authority. The program will allow the Water Agency’s Water Education Program to expand the number of students it reaches, the area where services are provided, and the concepts that students are taught.
Willard (Bill) Robert Stillman
May 13, 1929 – October 6, 2017

Devoted husband and father, professional engineer, and always a woodsman at heart. 

In 1959 Bill took a job as a Junior Engineer at the Sonoma County Water Agency where he served for his entire career, retiring as Chief Engineer in 1991. He was responsible for the design and construction of many of the water and flood control projects which protect and sustain life in Sonoma County

October Events Calendar
  • 10/24/2017 @ 8:30 am

Public Tours
All public tours have been canceled or postponed due to disaster relief efforts. New tours will be scheduled when possible. Stay tuned by visiting the Water Agency website and email S with any questions!
Employment Opportunities
We invite you to explore the career opportunities available with the Sonoma County Water Agency.

Available positions:
  • Water Agency Maintenance Worker II - (closes 10/30/17)
Fact of the Month
In 2016, more than 1,027 Chinook salmon were counted at our Russian River fish ladder
Fact of the Month
This E-News is produced by the Water Agency's Community & Government Affairs Department. We want to hear from you!  Contact us with your questions. 
Sonoma County Water Agency