State Water Board Drought Year Water Actions - Russian River


Questions and Answers

On June 17, 2015, the State Water Board adopted an emergency regulation to help protect federal- and state-listed anadromous fish in four priority Russian River tributary watersheds (Dutch Bill Creek, Green Valley Creek, portions of Mark West Creek, and Mill Creek). The Office of Administrative Law approved the emergency regulation and the emergency regulation went into effect on July 6, 2015. The emergency regulation is in effect for 270 days. The emergency regulation requires: (1) enhanced water conservation in critical areas of the four watersheds; and (2) information on water use if requested by the State Water Board. If you are looking for information on the regulation, please review the information below and the documents and information on the Russian River Emergency Regulation webpage.

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General Russian River Tributary Emergency Regulation Questions (§876)

Questions and Answers will be updated on a regular basis.

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Does the emergency regulation apply to my property or water use?
Watershed maps and a map lookup tool are available to assist landowners and water users in determining their responsibilities under the regulation. The regulation applies to Dutch Bill Creek Watershed, Green Valley Creek Watershed, portions of Mark West Creek Watershed, and Mill Creek Watershed. All landowners in the designated watersheds are required to respond to any informational order(s) issued by the State Water Board. All parties diverting water or using water sourced from within the critical watershed areas have to implement enhanced conservation under the regulation. Diverters and other water users in the rest of the designated watersheds are urged to conserve as much water as possible in this drought emergency, but would only be required to follow the enhanced conservation regulation if it becomes necessary for fish migration later in the year.

How long will this emergency regulation be in effect?
Emergency regulations of this nature can be in effect for up to 270 days from approval of the regulation by the Office of Administrative Law, which occurred on July 6, 2015. However, the enhanced conservation requirements of the regulation will only last as long as the Deputy Director for Water Rights, in consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and/or the National Marine Fisheries Service, deems them to be of benefit to Central California Coast coho salmon and Central California Coast steelhead. If the Governor ends the drought emergency, this regulation would also terminate. The emergency regulation could be renewed for additional intervals of 270 days, by State Water Board action, if conditions warrant.

Why is my water use limited under the emergency regulation?
Water levels in large sections of the Dutch Bill Creek, Green Valley Creek, portions of Mark West Creek, and Mill Creek watersheds were critically low or went dry last year, and conditions are projected to be as dry or drier this year. These streams are critical summer habitat for state- and federally-listed endangered Central California Coast coho salmon (CCC coho salmon) and federally-listed threatened Central California Coast steelhead (CCC steelhead). Since being listed, CCC coho salmon populations have continued to decline. In May 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service included the CCC coho salmon ESU in its "Species in the Spotlight" initiative, which highlights eight endangered species the agency considers most at risk of extinction in the United States. Young coho salmon and steelhead live in freshwater streams during the summer, and need cool, oxygen-rich water to survive until the fall. In late fall, winter, and early spring adult and juvenile salmon and steelhead need water to migrate. Water use for certain discretionary activities is being limited to help provide fish with acceptable water quality and habitat conditions during the severe drought.

What responsibilities do agricultural irrigators in the Dutch Bill Creek, Green Valley Creek, portions of Mark West Creek and Mill Creek watersheds have under the emergency regulation?
Agricultural water users are required to comply with the enhanced water conservation measures for any ornamental turf and other, non-agricultural commodities, the same as all other water users. However, irrigation for commercial agricultural use is not restricted by the regulation (i.e., Commercial agriculture irrigation can occur between 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. and more than twice a week, if necessary).

Why is my neighbor not subject to the informational order and enhanced water conservation regulation?
Your neighbor may or may not be within the watershed boundary specified in the regulation. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) hydrologic unit code data set was used to define the boundaries of the watersheds identified by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service as critical to Central California Coast coho salmon and Central California Coast steelhead. All landowners within the boundaries of the watershed specified in the regulation are subject to any informational orders issued. The enhanced conservation requirement, however, only applies to water coming from the critical areas of specified watersheds. A water user may be served by a water supplier that delivers water sourced from outside of the watersheds or in a portion of the watershed not subject to the enhanced water conservation measures at this time.

Do I have to put a meter on my well?
No. The regulation only requires landowners and water suppliers to estimate their water use. The regulation does not require water users to install a meter on their well.

Do the enhanced water conservation measures apply to water in each watershed?
The conservation measures apply to a portion of each watershed immediately upon approval of the emergency regulation by the Office of Administrative Law, which occurred on July 6, 2015. Theconservation measures described in Section 876 (d) of the emergency regulation apply to all water, surface water and groundwater, both potable and non-potable, sourced from the upper portion of each watershed. The upper portion of each watershed is identified as the most critical for mid- to late-summer rearing of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. Conservation measures may be extended to some or all of the remainder of each watershed. The emergency regulation provides for the use of untreated rainwater or gray water for certain uses that are otherwise not allowed, including: watering ornamental turf landscapes; washing motor vehicles; and filling and refilling of fountains or other decorative water features.