Water Quantity

Water quantity is the most critical aspect of a river’s health, as without water there are no creeks or rivers. Mark Twain’s famous saying about water in California is still true today, “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.”

Twain’s words ring true as most of our state is a desert with some areas such as the coast and mountains getting most of the rain that falls on the state and competition for the available water is fierce. Water is essential for everything we do so as early as the Gold Rush people saw having water to run mining equipment as equal to money or the ability to earn money. Today, water is even more valuable and the competing uses of water often sets up conflicts with river health in the Russian River and every other western river. Low flows in many rivers lead to water quality problems as pollutants are concentrated with less water and fish like salmon require cold water and lower flows easily get too hot in the summer sun. In the next 50 years our regions population will continue to grow, increasing our water needs and making water conservation a necessary part of our lives in California.

In the Russian River water is needed for municipal uses such as homes, businesses and irrigating parks and golf courses, agriculture uses water to produce crops and livestock, and recreation and wildlife also have a need for water. The water carried to the Pacific Ocean plays a critical role in nourishing the near-shore ecosystems. Because of the competition for water and frequent droughts the Russian River watershed water users have had to work harder to conserve water. Farmers are more and more engaged in water conservation efforts and some don’t even use water such as dry farmed vineyards. Landscape irrigation at parks and businesses are using smart controllers to reduce use. Homeowners have had to conserve water several times in the last decade in response to droughts showing that we can make a difference in keeping more water in our rivers and meeting the challenge or reducing our water use in droughts.

You can learn more about how to conserve water on your farm, home or business through the links below.

101 Ways to Conserve Water

How to Conserve Water and Use it Effectively

On-Farm Agricultural Water Stewardship Practices

Video on Dry Farming in Sonoma County

Article on Dry Farming

Technology helps reduce water supply gap

Check River Flow Conditions on the Russian River
Table of flow gauges on RR from Ukiah to Guerneville and links to reservoir levels

Water Rights
What is a Water Right?
A water right is legal permission to use a reasonable amount of water for a beneficial purpose such as swimming, fishing, farming or industry. If you take water from a lake, river, stream, or creek, or from underground supplies for a beneficial use, the California Water Code (Division 2) requires that you have a water right. Because California water right law is complicated, you may have a water right even if you do not have a water right permit issued by the state. Read more…

Public Trust Doctrine
The origins of the public trust doctrine are traceable to Roman law concepts of common property. Under Roman law, the air, the rivers, the sea and the seashore were incapable of private ownership; they were dedicated to the use of the public. This concept that tide and submerged lands are unique and that the state holds them in trust for the people has endured throughout the ages. Read more…


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