Good or bad, a lot of historic moments have been happening lately. The current one being the state of water within our watershed which is hitting new, historic daily lows on the regular. While this is probably one we will not be bragging about anytime soon, it does present us with the opportunity to make substantial change and to prepare ourselves for our new climate realities.
These realities are not going anywhere, so it is time we acknowledge them and try to adapt with them by creating new tools. Without a willingness to create lasting change through collaboration and putting aside the idea that the River is an endless piggy bank full of water, the State is going to keep using the tools that they currently have to reduce water demand. For instance, the State Water Board recently issued curtailment orders for over 1,800 water right holders in the Russian River watershed with cities, counties, agricultural businesses, and private users all impacted. This means those right holders can only use 55 gallons per day to cover essential human health needs.
Through these actions, the Water Board is hoping to help preserve at least 20,000 acre-feet of water storage in Lake Mendocino until October 1 so that the region does not risk going into another dry year with no water. Maintaining this buffer will also help with the preservation of our protected salmon species, water storage, and basic human health needs until the next rain can help restore some of our lost supplies. Curtailments are a lengthy and painful process, and better solutions are necessary.
As our regional climate increasingly changes to longer, hotter, and drier days, current business-as-usual water use will also have to adapt.
Community water users and local water managers need to use this pivotal moment to come together and actively work towards a sustainable water future. Only through proactive water demand management programs can our riparian and human environments continue to prosper in an environment facing less rain. Local water managers and the State Water Board tried relying on voluntary action, to no avail. Instead, it was their failure to implement mandatory conservation measures that demonstrated the clear inability of our region to invoke necessary change in water use through mere human will. A simple, easy to follow and understand water demand management program will help our region overcome these issues in the future.
Water scarcity, dry wells, record lows, and curtailments are not terms that we want to be part of our region’s water future. We are already seeing many in our community reconciling curtailment orders from the State, groundwater wells running dry, and having to make hard choices when it comes to choosing livelihood or meeting basic human needs. Resilient water management would help prevent situations like this.