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Drought Emergency: Healdsburg Orders Shutdown Of Outdoor Watering As Lake Mendocino Dries Up

HEALDSBURG (KPIX 5) – Residents of Healdsburg have been ordered shut down all outdoor watering systems as its only source of water begins to dry up amid a worsening drought.

The Sonoma County community began asking its residents to cut water use by 20 percent back on May 3rd, when there was still some hope of rain.  But now, all landscape irrigation is banned, including drip irrigation, and residents are limited to 74 gallons per day.

Here's why: the city gets its water exclusively from Lake Mendocino northeast of Ukiah, and it's in a world of hurt.

At 39% of capacity, the closed boat ramp is high and dry and far from the water's edge.

ALSO READ: City Of Healdsburg Drought Information

Fisherman Zackery Ligon had a long hike from the parking lot to anything resembling moisture.

"I want to say, within the last month it's gotten a couple of feet lower," Ligon told KPIX 5. "It's a big drop, real quick."

The reservoir feeds the upper Russian River. Now the state has ordered Healdsburg to cut use by an overall 40%.

Lake Mendocino Drought
Lake Mendocino during drought conditions, June 14, 2021. (CBS)

And that may just be the start. Back in April, Sonoma County Water Agency general manager Grant Davis warned what could be coming.

"With no additional rain and continued consumption from water users downstream, we anticipate the very real possibility of not being able to release water from this reservoir by fall," Davis said at the time.

That would leave Healdsburg with no water at all.

What happens when a city runs out of water? It's a scary scenario that residents are only now coming to grips with.

"We have got the notice and stuff like that," said Daniel Guzman, "but I think we should be implementing a little harder."

Traci Harris isn't sure everyone will cooperate.

"Maybe they'll become more resistant because that seems to be what people do these days when they're told they should be doing something," Harris said. "But I'm hoping that most people are going to do the best they can."

What people in Healdsburg are dealing with may become a more widespread problem as reservoirs across the Bay Area draw down, with no prospect of rain for a very long time.

So what happens if it's dry next year, as well?

"Well, I don't know," said Dennis Piciullo, "I really don't. We're in trouble, that's all I can say."

"We're way past brown lawns," said Elizabeth Holmes. "We're trying to think long-term in terms of what if this goes on for two years? How do we cope with this situation?"

Healdsburg has posted a list of drought restrictions and frequently asked questions, which can be found on the city's website.

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