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‘We don’t have enough water’

100,000 acre feet.

That’s the new benchmark Sonoma Water, the agency responsible for providing drinking water to more than 600,000 customers people in Sonoma County and beyond, has set for its customers.

Lake Sonoma can’t go below that number.

“This is a concrete threshold,” said Barry Dugan, Principal Program Specialist with Sonoma Water. “This is the same message: We don’t have enough water.”

As of September 23, Lake Sonoma sat at 45.3% capacity, holding 110,492 acre feet.

Dugan urges residents to turn off irrigation early, especially as we get into the winter months. Learn about key water saving tips at savingwaterpartnershiporg.

Winter won’t necessarily mean rain, according to Brian Garcia, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Garcia spoke during a virtual Drought Town Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 15.

Looking into the winter months, Garcia said a persistent drought is expected to remain through at least the end of November.

“There is literally no deeper zone to be in and Sonoma County has been here for several months and will continue to be here for several months,” Garcia said.

The seasonal outlook for October and November for the Northern half of the California state has an equal probability of getting rain. However, in the winter months, we’re trending toward a weak La Nina pattern, giving us a 50% chance of our typical wet Northern California winter, Garcia explained.

In other words, it won’t be what we need to get out of the drought.

“Obviously our climate is changing,” Second District Supervisor David Rabbitt said during the town hall. “It’s hard to imagine that just 2 ½ years ago several feet of flood water were flowing through the street of Guerneville. It feels as if it hasn’t rained since February of 2019.”

On average, Santa Rosa receives 32.20” of rain a year. As of today, Santa Rosa has received 12.77 inches of water, just 3.3 inches more than the driest year on record (1976/1977), according to Sonoma Water.

“It will eclipse the last drought on record, probably by a full 20% or more,” Rabbitt said. “What came of that drought was Lake Sonoma in 1982. What our challenge is: ‘What will come of this drought?’”

Sonoma Water has drought resiliency projects well underway, including two well improvements.

“Remember our wells our deep; 800 to 1000 feet deep,” Kent Gylfe, Deputy Chief Engineer with Sonoma Water said. “We are getting our water from the deep aquifer.”

The activation of these wells will not affect private wells. Gylfe said.

With these wells in place, Sonoma Water will then be able to use another handy technology: aquifer storage and recovery (ASR).

“When water is available, we take it from the Russian River and inject it into the aquifer,” Dugan said. “It’s a way to store or restore groundwater when we have it.”

According to Gylfe, back in 2013 Sonoma Water conducted a feasibility study on ASRs in Sonoma Valley. Then, in 2018 then agency piloted a successful project using one of the City of Sonoma’s small wells.

“While ASRs are new to the North Bay they’ve been known to prove sustainability,” Gylfe said.

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