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Historically Low Water at Lake Sonoma Points to Potentially Devastating Drought

LAKE SONOMA (KPIX) -- Sonoma County is facing a historic drought after two dry winters and, on Tuesday, county supervisors are expected to proclaim a drought emergency.

"We're looking, today, at the lowest level our reservoirs have ever been since they were built," said Brad Sherwood, the spokesman at Sonoma Water.

Lake Sonoma is the primary water source for about 600,000 customers in Sonoma and northern Marin Counties.

Sherwood said the lake gets its water strictly from rainfall and nothing from snow melt.

"Right now, we need our residents to start conserving water. There is no water to waste," Sherwood said.

The boat launch ramp at the Lake Sonoma marina was closed due to the low water level. The public boat launch ramp, run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was still open. Workers at the marina store said the ramp closure does not affect their rentals. They're still renting kayaks and other boats.. They encourage people to visit the lake since business has taken a dive.

The Morley family of Sonoma County visited the marina store and stopped by to check out the launch ramp.

"It's really worrisome," said Alicia & Jeff Morley. "It's kind of depressing 'cause we always come every weekend and, to see this, like where the water usually is and then where it is now..."

They remembered the last time the lake was full.

"We came Valentine's Day 2017 and the water level was to the skylight (of the marina store bathroom)," Alicia Morley said.

Lake Sonoma recorded its highest levels in 2017. In fact, the marina store was flooded. Now, the lake is down more than 100 feet from that level.

Kim Petersen owns the 20-acre Petersen of Schoolhouse Creek Vineyards near the lake. She said the drought has been hard. They don't get water from any water agency, just rainfall.

"We voluntarily cut back anyway because we are on a well and we do see an impact over a few years of not having the water table that we were used to. So, for us, we'll let our lawn go and we won't perhaps do the same size garden that we'd like to do," Petersen said.

Many said they'll start to conserve as if water is liquid gold.

"We'll probably turn off our sprinklers in our lawn and stuff like that and probably not wash our cars," said Jeff Morley.

"Conserve where you can because, you know, it takes all of us," Petersen said.

Sonoma County water officials say that the success of conservation efforts now will dictate what mandatory restrictions will look like later this summer.

Sherwood said people looking for conservation tips can go to Saving Water Partnership for recommendations.

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