State Water Board may extend restrictions to Russian River water

KRCB 104.9

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A view of the Russian River looking towards GuernevilleNick Doty

A current regulation that curtails water rights in the Russian River watershed is set to expire in July.  But that may be extended due to the continuing drought.

State Water Resources Control Board officials have released a draft emergency regulation to extend the curtailments and clarify some of its requirements.

The Division of Water Rights will hold a public workshop April 14 to discuss the draft regulation, answer questions and receive comments. Public input on the draft will be accepted until noon on April 18, after which a revised draft will be released again for final comments before being considered for adoption by the state board on May 10.

The draft includes various modifications, according to the news release, including the following: A refined water availability method that better reflects the hydrologic processes and supply situation in the watershed; the protection of water supply for fish habitat in Lower Russian River tributaries; a voluntary conservation program; and administrative improvements of curtailments and exceptions. Agency officials say exceptionally low precipitation since the beginning of the year has led to extreme drought in the Russian River watershed...That's caused reservoir levels in Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma to fall to about 40 percent below average. With dry conditions expected to persist, officials said curtailments are an effective means of protecting drinking water supplies and fish and wildlife habitat.

The draft regulation is available in PDF form at https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/drought/russian_river/docs/2022RussianRiverRegulationDraft_April1Release.pdf.

The Russian River the primary North Bay waterway that drains 1,485 square miles of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. With an annual average discharge of approximately 1,600,000 acre feet it is the second-largest river (after the Sacramento River) flowing through the nine-county Greater San Francisco Bay Area with a mainstem 115 mile long.

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