SONOMA -- If you wanted to measure California's change of water fortunes, the boat ramp at Lake Sonoma would be one place to do it.
The lake is the scene of an incredible four-month turnaround, for the very water system where the drought officially started.
"As you recall, three years ago, the governor literally was up at Lake Mendocino," recalled Grant Davis with Sonoma Water. "Declaring the start of the drought basically, basically April 2021."
And things only got worse from there as storage dwindled and restrictions mounted. Lake Sonoma would hit an all-time low in November of 2022 with concern mounting over what another dry year might mean. And then it started raining.
"It's remarkable," Grant Davis said of the turnaround.
In March, the Army Corps of Engineers started spilling water. to make room for subsequent storms, and some drought lessons are already paying off. 10 years of research and planning has produced new control guidelines for many California reservoirs. The idea is to be more flexible, and store more water for less rainy days, something they're already doing here.
"And there's a significant amount of water they're actually holding back as a result of our improvements in storm predictions and atmospheric river research," Davis added.
Lake Mendocino is also back to full water supply pool, a huge relief for this region, and something a lot of people have to see for themselves. .
"Wow, I love it," said Marwan, visiting Lake Sonoma from his home down Highway 101. " We live in Santa Rosa. You know, the fire danger and all that. We had to come up and take a look because we knew it was gonna be just a pleasant sight, and it is awesome."
Over those three years there was always hope that one big winter could make a difference.
Given the deficits the region was facing, it got increasingly difficult to wrap one's head around the idea of that actually happening, but here is the region with largely full reservoirs and ambitions for groundwater recharge.
It's a reminder of what can happen in the land of extremes, and for Sonoma County, like much of California, it's a water comeback story that will be talked about for a long time.
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