California is no stranger to drought; it is a recurring feature of our climate. We recently experienced a 5-year drought from 2012-2016. Other notable historic droughts include 2007-09, 1987-92 and 1976-77. Recent lack of winter rainfall has unfortunately returned us to a state of drought preparation and response.
Defining drought and responses to it vary by water agency. Individual water agencies may use criteria such as rainfall, runoff, amount of water in storage reservoirs, or expected supply from a water wholesaler to define their water supply conditions. The Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) provides wholesale, potable water for approximately 600,000 people in Sonoma and Marin counties. Sonoma Water relies on the Russian River and two water supply reservoirs in the Russian River watershed-- Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma-- for its primary water supplies.
Defining when a drought ends is based on agency specific information. A city may define the end of a drought when its reservoir is full, or it receives a full supply from the wholesale water agency. A single dry year isn’t a drought for most Californians because of the state’s extensive system of water infrastructure and groundwater resources. Drought impacts increase with the length of a drought, as carry-over supplies in reservoirs are depleted and water levels in groundwater basins decline. The last two winters have been exceptionally dry and as of February 1, Lake Sonoma storage is at 64 percent of water supply capacity and Lake Mendocino is at 41 percent. For more information about the impacts of low rainfall on the Russian River this year visit www.sonomawater.org/current-water-supply-levels.
Sonoma Water and the City of Rohnert Park are continuously monitoring the situation in terms of water supply conditions. Approximately 60 percent of the city’s water is supplied by Sonoma Water which supplies treated Russian River water to multiple jurisdictions throughout Sonoma and Marin counties. The remaining 40 percent is supplied by a series of groundwater wells located throughout the city that are supplied by the local aquifer.
These combined sources supply an average of 1.4 billion gallons of drinking water annually and a daily production average of 3.8 million gallons per day. Additionally, Rohnert Park has eight water storage tanks with a total capacity of approximately six million gallons of treated water. The remainder of the city’s potable water supply originates from 29 deep ground water wells located throughout the city. We also use recycled water to irrigate our parks and street medians, landscapes at local schools, several businesses, Roberts Lake, Foxtail Golf Course and Sonoma State University.
Although we encourage all water customers to implement everyday water saving practices both inside and outside your home or business as a way of life, we are asking customers to do more to reduce water use due to the low amount of rainfall received this year. Every drop saved by our customers helps improve water flows in the Russian River and extend reservoir storage levels should a longer dry period be experienced.
The City of Rohnert Park is committed to water conservation and is here to help our residents and businesses conserve water through a variety of programs, services, tools, tips and rebates. For more information on how you can save water please visit www.rpcity.org/conservation.