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Sonoma-Marin Water Committee Calls On Residents To Reduce Water Use By 20%

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) -- An advisory committee for water agencies in the North Bay passed a resolution Monday asking residents to voluntarily reduce water usage by 20%.

The 8-person Water Advisory Committee (WAC) for the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership approved the resolution as the state sees drought conditions across the state. Due to drastically lower rainfall over the past two years, officials say water storage levels were at historic lows in both Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma.

"We request all water users of the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent immediately due to the drought," said Susan Harvey, chair of the WAC and Cotati City Council Member. "Reducing water use by 20% can be achieved by implementing some quick water saving tips, such as reducing outdoor water use and fixing leaks."

READ MORE: UPDATE U.S. Drought Monitor Puts Most of Bay Area Under Extreme Drought Conditions

The request comes one week after the Sonoma County board of supervisors declared a drought emergency. When Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the area the week before that, water storage levels were at both Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma were extremely low.

Most critical is Lake Mendocino currently at 42% of water supply storage capacity. Lake Sonoma's water supply capacity is currently 61%, the lowest on record for this time of year.

Two weeks ago, Marin County became the first local municipality to adopt tough new water use restrictions.

On April 20, the Marin Municipal Water District -- which provides water to Southern and Central Marin -- voted to put in the tough water-use standards starting May 1.

Nearly 200,000 residents are already restricted to watering their lawns just one day a week. Backyard pools will not refilled and they will no longer be able to wash their cars at home. First-time violators will get warnings, but any further violations will result in fines ranging from $25 to $250.

Marin County ultimately uses about 50 percent of its available drinking water outside. That will be the next target as the Marin Water Board makes its next moves trying to navigate the drought.

"Oh, it's all drip," San Anselmo resident Jerri Linn told KPIX Tuesday as she showed her garden. "The only thing I'm hand watering right now are my carrots, my babies in the corner."

From the vegetables to the ornamentals, Linn and her husband have strived to make their garden as water efficient as possible. She knows more restrictions are coming.

"I would just assume they cry wolf and everyone be a little more conscious than kind of wait," she said. " And then all of a sudden we're really in an extreme drought."

The Marin Water Board is not waiting.

"The proposal on the table is to limit to two days a week for outdoor irrigation," says board president Cynthia Koehler. "That's going to be the biggest issue, and also requiring pool covers."

Koehler says there's no evidence yet that water use has dropped since the first drought warnings were issued here.

"Well, in a few weeks, you are unlikely to see a lot of progress," Koehler explained. "My understanding from the team is that we have not yet, which is why we're going to be meeting tonight and taking some additional actions."

The board may also consider increasing the turf replacement rebate from one dollar per square foot to three. The drought has arrived, and all signs here point point to more conservation steps in the months ahead.

"I've lived here through all the droughts," Linn said. "It's pretty scary. My friend and I hike up in the water district every week. It's scary. It's the lowest I can never remember."

The Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership is a collaboration amongst the cities of Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Sonoma, Cotati, Healdsburg; North Marin, Valley of the Moon and Marin Municipal Water Districts; Town of Windsor, California American Water – Larkfield District and Sonoma County Water Agency.

To learn more about the partnership and water-saving tips, visit the website.

Wilson Walker contributed to this story.

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