Campaign to Save Water Begins in Marin, Sonoma Counties

"The official car of 2014" -- a dirty vehicle with "Don't Wash Me" written on the back window. An eye dropper is labeled "The official drip irrigation of 2014."

An eye dropper is labeled "The official drip irrigation of 2014." Credit: Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership
An eye dropper is labeled "The official drip irrigation of 2014." Credit: Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership
Local water utilities in Sonoma and Marin counties have launched a public education campaign to conserve water during the current drought.

The Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership will use local and regional publications in the North Bay, radio stations and online media to educate the public about outdoor water conservation tips.

The humorous and creative advertisements include a photo of "The official car of 2014" -- a dirty vehicle with "Don't Wash Me" written on the back window. A broom sweeping leaves on the ground is "The official hose of 2014" and an eye dropper is labeled "The official drip irrigation of 2014."

"We hope this campaign will create a buzz in the local coffee shops and get our community to not only talk about saving water, but take action by following some easy water saving tips. Every drop of water matters at this point," said Jake Mackenzie, a Rohnert Park City Councilman and Chairman of the Water Advisory Committee.

The Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership includes the Sonoma County Water Agency and nine water utilities in Cotati, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Windsor and the North Marin, Valley of the Moon and Marin Municipal Water Districts.

The slogan of the unusual wintertime public outreach efforts is "The Drought is On. Turn the Water Off."

The Sonoma County Water Agency, which manages water supply storage within Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma, said 2013 was one of the driest years the county has seen in 120 years, and no significant rainfall is forecasted through mid-January.

The lakes are at record low levels. Lake Mendocino is at 38 percent of water supply capacity and Lake Sonoma is at 67 percent.

Water releases from Lake Mendocino are being managed by the State Water Resources Control Board, which has allowed the Sonoma County Water Agency to reduce flows in the upper Russian River to preserve water storage during the drought.

The water level in Lake Mendocino is reliant on rainfall and water diverted from the Potter Valley Project, which has been reduced by more than half. The lake is the key drinking water source for Ukiah, Hopland, Healdsburg and Cloverdale, and it supplies water to the Sonoma County Water Agency's Russian River Water Supply system.

The water releases from Lake Mendocino also are crucial to Chinook salmon and steelhead trout in the Russian River in the fall and winter.

Lake Sonoma is four times larger than Lake Mendocino and can supply multiple years of water during the current drought. It is the source of the majority of the Sonoma County Water Agency's supply.

The water supply situation appears less dire for two other Bay Area water districts.

The Mokelumne River watershed in the Sierra Nevada is the source of 90 percent of water to the East Bay Municipal Utility District, and because of heavy rains last year, EBMUD reservoirs are still two-thirds full.

Precipitation since July in the Mokelumne River Watershed was 4.5 inches, or 26 percent of average. EBMUD could declare a drought emergency if storms do not replenish the reservoirs this winter, the district said.

The 10 local reservoirs on the Santa Clara Valley Water District are at 33 percent capacity, which is 66 percent of the 20-year average, spokesman Marty Grimes said. Some of those reservoirs are very low and creeks may dry up, Grimes said.

Groundwater storage accounts for about half the district's supply and levels are in the normal range, Grimes said. The groundwater is a back-up supply for use during multiple fry years, Grimes said.

Fifty-five percent of the district's water supply is imported from sources that include the Delta and the Hetch Hetchy water system, Grimes said.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has an ongoing conservation program that includes using gray water from clothes washers for irrigation, Grimes said. "It's still very early in the winter," Grimes said. "We'll be going before the district board on Feb. 11 to give a water supply outlook based on whether it will be a dry winter or whether we'll get more rain," Grimes said.

The Department of Water Resources has informed 29 public agencies they will receive only five percent of the slightly more than four million acre-feet of water in 2014. The agencies supply more than 25 million state residents and more than one million acres of irrigated farmland.

The DWR's first survey of the winter on Jan. 3 found the snowpack's statewide water content at about 20 percent of average for this time of year. The water content of the snowpack in 2012 also was 20 percent of the historical average, and the readings this month and last year are the driest on record, the DWR said.

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Pat Ravasio January 10, 2014 at 11:24 AM
Hello Patch writers! How about a story on how this water conservation can happen when hundreds, even thousands of new housing units are being built in Marin and Sonoma? The same water officials who are telling current customers to conserve are signing off on thousands of new water hook ups!
Here since 1970 January 10, 2014 at 01:09 PM
Correcto, Pat, let's have those stories. But just in case the press doesn't see the disconnect here, in Larkspur we've got 91 units being built on the Niven property, and right next to MMWD by the freeway another 180 units under construction at the WinCup site. The planners tell us how it will be, but as yet nobody lives in these units - time will tell just how conjested things will be. So what are we doing allowing 920 units at Larkspur Landing, as well as nearly 200,000 square feet of new hotel and restaurant space, to be built? Water conservation, yeah don't wash your car, we've got to make room for maybe another 10,000 users. Has this county lost its mind? Our elected officials and hired hands at city hall are agreeing to plans that will crowd our own neighborhoods, and ultimately return to the 70s toilet training mantra "yellow, let it mellow". Oh, wait, almost forgot how determined MMWD has been for us to drink desalinated bay mud. What to do? Go to your city's public meetings. In Larkspur, Planning Commission is 2nd Tuesday each month, and City Council meetings 1st and 3rd Wednesday each month. Listen...get outraged...and then speak up!


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