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Winter deluge easing Sonoma County's drought water woes

Winter deluge eases Sonoma County drought water woes
Winter deluge eases Sonoma County drought water woes 02:29

SONOMA -- Three years of drought emergency may soon be coming to an end in Sonoma County, a decision that will be considered early next month. 

The system's two reservoirs have surged with the winter storms and they're trying to save as much of that water as possible.

"We've actually encroached from what we call our conservation or water supply pool into our flood pool," explained Chris Schooley with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We now have to evacuate that and that's what you're seeing here today. We're increasing the flows to bring the water down behind the dam."

Behind the dam is a lake that has transformed in a matter of months. Now, it's full enough to draw a steady stream of people who just have to see it for themselves.

"Wow," exclaimed Marwan, visiting from Santa Rosa. "I love it. I love it. I mean, four years of drought. We live in Santa Rosa. The fire danger. All that. We had to come up and take a look because we know it's going to be just a pleasant sight to see. And it is. Awesome."

As for the water being released, the Army Corps of Engineers is being more conservative than in years past. They're using updated guidelines designed to hold more water for drier days.

"So the flexibility that is actually being called upon, and that we've worked towards together over the years, is allowing us to hold back more water in the reservoir, significantly more," said Grant Davis with Sonoma Water. "We're talking about 19,000 acre feet more water in the reservoir today and that water can be used in the summertime. So the Corps is constantly waiting and holding that water back in till the guide curves and the conditions improve. "

The drought may be winding down but its shadow will linger, having pushed California to be more water-conscious, even in the midst of an epic winter

"You need to know that we will always be in a situation where  extremes are the order of the day," Davis said. "The new norm. Drought conditions, very dry and very wet. And we have to be able to manage that, which is why working in concert with the Corps right now, is so darn important."

That idea of being flexible continues hour by hour. They are watching the storms that are approaching next week.

If those storms fizzle a bit, the Corps can back off on the releases, storing more of the water that is in this lake. They want to be more nimble and more agile, to save more water for when the rainy weather ends.

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