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Sonoma County Water Agency To Draw From Russian River Weeks Early

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF/BCN/KPIX) – Drought conditions prompted the Sonoma County Water Agency this week to start an annual process of drawing water from the Russian River weeks earlier than normal.

Crews from the agency, also known as Sonoma Water, inflated a rubber dam Monday near Forestville, that is used to create a small pool from which the agency draws water for use in four off-stream infiltration ponds.

These ponds help recharge groundwater, which is naturally filtered through sand and gravel and delivered to Sonoma Water's customers, according to Sonoma water officials.

The dam, located downstream of the Wohler Bridge, typically doesn't get inflated until spring or early summer.

"With the incredible dry conditions we've had and flows really declining into the Russian River, it's going up over the next few days," Donald Seymour says of the dam.

Seymour is Sonoma Water's Principal Engineer for Resource Planning.

The inflatable barrier will give Sonoma Water a bit more flexibility, but it will not solve the problem coming after another dry year.

"It may make it a lot tougher this year," Seymour says. "The whole landscape continues to dry out, right? The soil moisture that we were hoping to see from rain events really didn't occur, so that condition is just worsening.

"But thinking of it in a bigger picture context, we could pretty much say that the prior drought that began in 2012 is really still with us," says Jeanine Jones, Interstate Resources Manager at California Department of Water Resources.

DWR is rolling back water deliveries from the state water project, now just 5% of requested amounts.

"So this is really similar to the circumstances we've seen in the Colorado river basin which has now been in a drought for more than 20 years," Jones says.

State and local water agencies are already taking steps ahead of another hard year, with alarm bells ringing as early as March.

"Responding to drought is a little bit like you're on your heels instead of moving forward," Seymour says. "It becomes a challenge because we are continuously reacting to this drought we just haven't had relief from."

Public notices will be posted around the rubber dam warning the public not to recreate on or near the dam. California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations prohibit fishing within 250 feet of the upstream and downstream sides of the rubber dam.

With a third year of drought conditions and water demands increasing, Sonoma Water asks residents to use water efficiently. Additional water conservation tips are available at the Sonoma Marin Water Saving Partnership website.

Wilson Walker contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wilson Walker contributed to this report.

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