The well-known phrase “Go with the flow” takes on a different and more vital meaning when it comes to the Russian River. Because here in the Russian River watershed, our people and economy are heavily reliant on continuous flows in the Russian River. It is this irreplaceable natural resource that makes everything “go” in our community.

The Russian River provides drinking water for 600,000 people, supports thriving recreational and hospitality industries, and is a refuge for imperiled fish such as salmon and trout.

In addition to driving our local economy, it drives peoples’ lives. It’s both the lifeblood and heartbeat of our community.

Two years ago, we had record rainfall with intense flooding. Now we are in the worst drought on record. Our river is running dry and something’s got to change.

Although we often take this water for granted, its presence is the result of a complex and historic water management system. With the extreme variability in rainfall brought about by climate change and the increased demands of agricultural and urban users, this system has been strained to the breaking point.

Here’s how the river’s flow is currently maintained. In the summer, water from Lake Mendocino flows into the river at Ukiah. Then water from Lake Sonoma joins the river at Healdsburg and flows on to the coast at Jenner. Groundwater also provides critical cool clean water to the river, particularily in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek, and the Russian River Valley.

Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma are at their lowest levels ever for this time of year, and we face the possibility of another dry winter ahead. The situation is so dire that the State ordered 1,500 farmers, grape growers, water providers and towns to stop diverting water from the river. Water managers are releasing just enough water to keep fish and wildlife alive.

The best way for our community to sustain itself going forward is to reduce urban and agricultural demands on our water supply. Healdsburg successfully reduced its water use by 55% since limiting individuals to 74 gallons per day and banning lawn sprinklers.

We must also increase groundwater recharge so that we can store more of our annual rainfall instead of allowing it all to flow into the ocean.

Russian Riverkeeper is working to develop policies that require sensible water conservation measures and promote groundwater recharge so that we can be assured of year-round water in the river. if we had reduced our water usage last year, when drought conditions were first evident, current restrictions would not have had to be so severe.

And that’s not all we do.

Russian Riverkeeper holds our government officials accountable for enforcing our bedrock environmental protection laws and stopping polluters.

We mobilize volunteers to clean up trash that strangles our river ecosystem. Last year, we removed over 400,000 pounds – more than a blue whale – of trash that would otherwise have flowed into the ocean.

We are taking a a leadership role converting the 360-acre Hanson site of abandoned gravel pits to floodplain habitat. The new habitat will reduce flooding, keep our water clean and abundant, increase public recreation, and improve our climate resilience. It’s also essential for salmon and countless native animals and plants.

Russian Riverkeeper educates & empowers youth to become our next generation of environmental stewards.

And, sadly, for each of the past four years we have responded to fires or floods, helping residents restore their properties and protecting the river from damaging pollutants.

The Russian River is the lifeblood and heartbeat of our community. It’s severely threatened by climate change.

Your support is critical to our success and your continued enjoyment of this irreplaceable resource.

It’s your river. Help us rescue it.


Share This Story!