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Storm System Brings Hope to Parched North Bay, Reservoirs

LAKE MENDOCINO (KPIX 5) -- Lake Mendocino is where Gov Newsom declared a drought emergency back in April. Now, water is finally flowing into this reservoir again, raising the same question that is being asked across much of Californian. How much progress could reasonably be made here in one winter?

"The river, coming in, it'll just start coming in and spreading out," said Kevin Howell, looking at the north end of the lake. "Big time. It don't take too long before you see big progress."

The East Fork of the Russian River has sprung back to life, now crawling towards the lakebed that became a postcard for California's drought. And it's already delivering some good, short-term news for people downstream.

"So, for the next two weeks, the state board says that the supply that is available to us is greater than the demand so they have lifted the curtailments," said Healdsburg Utility Director Terry Crowley.

Healdsburg, which relies primarily on Lake Mendocino for its water, had to cut its water use in half this year. They're hoping the rainfall translates into replenished storage.

"There's always some uncertainty about how much water seeping into the ground, and how much runs off and actually stores in the reservoirs," said Crowley.

"So we really do need an average, and above-average rainfall year to truly make a mark for this historic drought," said Brad Sherwood with the Sonoma County Water Agency. "We are pretty darn dry up here, so here's where we're at. We need a good 7 to 10 inches of rainfall just to get the soil wet enough to create the runoff that we need to get that water into our reservoirs."

So while the system is starting to move again, there's a long way to go and no guarantees that the current course will hold.

"What we've got going on right now is fantastic," Sherwood says. "We welcome it. But we are still very cautious. Because we have had similar years, where the fall is extremely wet, but then it dries out the rest of the winter."

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