Welcome to the State Water Resources Control Board - North Coast california environmental protection agency

Russian River TMDLs

Russian River Watershed

The Russian River drains a 1,485 square mile watershed in Mendocino and Sonoma counties, California. Major tributaries to the Russian River include Forsythe Creek, Big Sulphur Creek, Dry Creek, Laguna de Santa Rosa, and Austin Creek. There are two major dams in the watershed, creating Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma.

To receive notices and information on the Russian River via e-mail, please go here to subscribe to the listserve and click on “Russian River TMDL.”


Water bodies in the Russian River watershed are listed under the Clean Water Act Section 303(d) (per the proposed 2012 List) due to impairments to water quality by several pollutants.

The entire Russian River watershed is impaired for sediment and temperature. Recent data show a pathogen indicator bacteria impairment throughout the watershed. Green Valley Creek is listed as impaired for dissolved oxygen. Lake Sonoma, Lake Mendocino, and the Laguna de Santa Rosa are impaired for mercury in fish tissue. The Laguna de Santa Rosa is also impaired for phosphorus and dissolved oxygen, in addition to the watershed-wide sediment, temperature, and pathogen indicator bacteria impairments (please see the Laguna TMDL webpage for additional information).

Several projects are underway to clean up 303(d) listed waterbodies via the establishment of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs).

Pathogen / Indicator Bacteria TMDL

The Regional Water Board held a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) public scoping meeting concerning the development of the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Indicator Bacteria TMDL on January 30, 2015. The purpose of the meeting was to gather input on possible environmental impacts of the Russian River TMDL. The comment period closed on Wednesday February 18, 2015 at 5 PM.

The presentation and handouts from the public scoping meeting are available below:


Water quality monitoring from the Russian River and its tributary creeks reflect widespread contamination with bacteria and other indicators of human waste, which pose a threat to the health of the river ecosystem and the people who visit it. Bacteria can indicate the presence of pathogenic organisms that are found in warm-blooded animal waste. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is developing the Russian River Pathogen Indicator Bacteria TMDL to address the pathogen indicator bacteria impairment in the Russian River Watershed.

What can area residents do to help the problem?
  • If you have a septic system, have it checked and cleaned. If it needs repair, fix it!
  • When you’re enjoying the river, use a portable toilet or other restroom facilities.
  • Make sure dirty diapers are put in a garbage can and not left on the ground
  • Pick up pet waste.
  • If you keep large animals, clean up their waste - and make sure contaminated runoff does not reach your local creek or the river.

Project Schedule

Regional Water Board staff are currently accepting comments regarding potential environmental impacts of the TMDL and mitigation measures for those impacts. Please see the Public Notice for complete details about submitting CEQA comments. All comments are due by 5:00 pm on Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

The public review draft of the TMDL will be released the summer of 2015. The Regional Water Board is scheduled to consider the adoption of the TMDL in October 2015. Should the Regional Water Board adopt the TMDL, it will be considered by the State Water Resource Control Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a process that takes approximately one year.

Water Quality Data Collection

Popular swimming beaches along the mainstem Russian River are monitored
for bacteria every summer. When fecal indicator bacteria levels exceed
recommended levels, warning signs are posted at the beach. Beach monitoring results are posted by the Sonoma County Department of Health Services here:

Project Documents


Quality Assurance Project Plans



Useful Links

Sediment TMDL

As part of our efforts to control sediment waste discharges and restore sediment impaired water bodies like the Russian River, the Regional Water Board adopted the Total Maximum Daily Load Implementation Policy Statement for Sediment Impaired Receiving Waters in the North Coast Region, which is also known as the Sediment TMDL Implementation Policy, on November 29, 2004. The Sediment TMDL Implementation Policy states that Regional Water Board staff shall control sediment pollution by using existing permitting and enforcement tools.
Specific sediment control measures that Regional Water Board staff are taking or plan to take in the Russian River watershed are described in the
Regional Water Board Staff Work Plan to Control Excess Sediment in Sediment-Impaired Watersheds.

Temperature TMDL

Regional Water Board staff are proposing to address the Russian River temperature impairment in part through the development of a region-wide temperature TMDL implementation policy.

Mercury TMDLs

Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma in the Russian River have been listed under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act for mercury pollution measured in fish tissue. Mercury, also called quicksilver, is a heavy metal and potent neurotoxin that is harmful to humans and wildlife. Mercury builds up in the bodies of fish and also in people who eat contaminated fish. Possible mercury sources include mercury and gold mines, soil erosion due to human activities such as logging and road construction, and airborne sources from North America and Asia.

A statewide effort to develop mercury TMDLs for at least 75 lakes and reservoirs is under development. Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino are part of the statewide effort.

Laguna de Santa Rosa, the largest tributary to the Russian River, has also been placed on the Section 303(d) for mercury pollution measured in fish tissue. The development of the Laguna de Santa Rosa TMDL for mercury contamination is not yet scheduled.

Contact Information:

Charles Reed, Project Manager

Rebecca Fitzgerald, TMDL Unit Supervisor

Updated February 19, 2015