Sonoma County’s Water Supply
There are eight major water contractors who buy water from the Sonoma County Water Agency:
Valley of the Moon
North Marin Water District
They have legal contracts with the Agency to provide them with certain water allocations as long as water is available. During drought periods the contractual allocations get cut back and the contractors need to rely on conservation and local supplies (usually groundwater) to provide as much as half of their supply. The Agency has a permit from the State Water Resources Control Board allowing them to withdraw up to 76,000 acre feet a year (AFY), from the Russian River at various points. Each acre-foot has about 325,000 gallons. 76,000 AFY is about 25 billion gallons. For the last fifteen years the Agency has been trying to get that amount increased to 101,000 AFY to no avail.
Needless to say, the situation is even more complicated by extensive water use by wineries and other property owners, some of whom have their own water rights, yet many are guilty of illegal water diversions because there is a fifteen year backup in the State Board’s water permit allocations and little enforcement. There is nothing to be lost by simply taking the water.
The complexities of the Eel River diversion and the Potter Valley Project involve power generation by PG&E, and have resulted in 33% less water being delivered to Lake Mendocino, from which most of our supplies come, and further complicates the situation.
Follow the flow of our water supply on Sonoma County Water Agency’s Interactive Map.
Read more in this Sonoma Gazette article.
Russian River Hydrology
The Russian River drains an area of 1,485 square miles that is approximately 100 miles long and from 12 to 32 miles wide. From its source, about 16 miles north of Ukiah, the river flows southward for 90 miles through Redwood, Ukiah, Hopland, and Alexander Valleys, and through the northwestern part of the Santa Rosa Plains.
It is estimated that there are presently over 600 diversions by various entities along the mainstem of the Russian River and approximately 800 other diversions along the tributaries of the Russian River (SCWA 1996b). The uses of diverted water include municipal, domestic, agricultural, and industrial.
Links to recent news articles:
Booze, a Banker, & The Bailout: The Murder of Mark West Creek
As the Director of Merchant Banking at America’s most politically well-connected investment firm, Goldman Sachs, Henry L. Cornell is accustomed to reaping the benefits of political oligarchy.
Drinking Our Rivers Dry
In recent decades, the once-simple act of protecting new bud growth on grape vines from frigid temperatures has become tantamount to a war on rivers.
The Wrath of Grapes
For decades, Sonoma County’s wine industry has been thriving. The county’s salmon and steelhead, meanwhile, are vanishing, and some fisheries biologists, attorneys and conservationists assure that the wine industry’s gain is the Russian River’s loss.
Fish Gotta Swim
The water in California’s rivers and streams has been over-allocated and over-diverted to the point that natural systems are collapsing. California’s rivers and streams have been channeled, diked, diverted and filled despite almost no information on how much water is needed to keep them even minimally healthy. Read more from the California Coastkeeper Alliance and what they’re doing about water allocation.