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Russian River Drought Response

Governor Newsom declared a drought emergency in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties largely due to abnormally dry conditions in the Russian River watershed. The watershed is home to 360,000 people and provides water for municipal and private wells, agriculture, wineries and recreation. As the region’s drought situation worsens, local and state governments and community members are collaborating to address water shortages.

Below are links to important information regarding drought activities in the Russian River.

  Click here for information on drought funding opportunities

Government officials on the dry floor of Lake Mendocino
Government officials on the dry floor of Lake Mendocino ahead of a press conference on April 21, 2021.
Photo credit: CA Dept of Water Resources

Russian River Watershed Emergency Regulations

The State Water Resources Control Board will consider adoption of a proposed emergency regulation for the Russian River watershed at the June 15th State Water Board Meeting which, among other things, will help ensure water is available for: (1) carryover storage in Lake Mendocino in the event conditions remain dry; (2) minimum flows for state and federally listed fish in the Russian River; and (3) minimum human health and safety needs.

How to Submit Comments

The June 15, 2021 Board Meeting Agenda provides information on the location of the State Water Board meeting and how to submit written comments. Written comments must be received by 12:00 p.m. on June 10, 2021. As noted under the Important Information section of the June 15, 2021 agenda, comments should be sent as follows:

  • Written Comments. Submittals are to be sent via e-mail to the Clerk to the Board at commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov. Please indicate in the subject line, 6/15/2021 BOARD MEETING – ITEM 5.
  • Oral Comments at the Board Meeting. If you wish to provide comments or present at the Board meeting, please refer to the additional information about participating telephonically or via the remote meeting solution is available here: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/board_info/remote_meeting/

Information on how to view the Board meeting is available at the top of the June 15 Board Meeting agenda. Once the proposed regulation is submitted to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL), OAL will then provide a five-day comment period for interested parties to submit comments. This website will be updated to provide more information on how to submit comments to OAL as that information becomes available.

Russian River Water Unavailability Public Workshop

Russian River Water Unavailability Public Workshop

In response to emergency drought conditions persisting throughout California, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) Division of Water Rights (Division) has issued Notices of Water Unavailability to post-1914 water right holders in the Upper Russian River watershed. The Division is also planning to propose an emergency regulation at the June 15th State Water Board Meeting which, among other things, will help ensure water is available for: (1) carryover storage in Lake Mendocino in the event conditions remain dry; (2) minimum flows for state and federally listed fish in the Russian River; and (3) minimum human health and safety needs.

Staff held a public workshop the evening of June 10 to provide information and answer questions related to the Notices of Water Unavailability and the proposed emergency regulation.

Refer to the public notice for more information on this workshop and our drought-related efforts.

Documents for Review

Water Unavailability Information

Comparison of water right demands and available supplies in the Upper Russian River watershed
Comparison of water right demands and available supplies in the Upper Russian River watershed

Key Assumptions for the Supply/Demand Chart:

  1. Single Basin approach – Compares total estimated monthly supply of natural surface water runoff to total estimated monthly demand for the entire basin draining the Upper Russian River just upstream of the Dry Creek Confluence
  2. Demand calculated from the average combined monthly direct diversion and diversion to storage reported in the 2017-2019 annual use reports, cleaned using principles of the Standardized QAQC methodology
  3. Supply flow – USGS Precipitation Runoff Modeling System (PRMS) considers real world terrain, vegetation/land use, soil properties, and meteorological data to simulate natural surface water runoff (streamflow) spatially within the watershed
  4. Forecast supply - PRMS model using 2014 temperature data and 0 precipitation from May 16 – Sep 30, 2021

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