SONOMA COUNTY (BCN) – The California State Water Resources Control Board ordered reductions this week on minimum instream flows and diversions from the Russian River as drought conditions worsen in the river’s watershed.

The temporary order, which the SWRCB issued Monday, lowers instream flow requirements from 85 cubic feet per second to 35 and requires the Sonoma County Water Agency and its contractors to reduce diversions from the river by 20 percent from last year’s usage between July 1 and mid-December 2021.

The board issued the order at Sonoma Water’s behest. Officials say it will allow Sonoma Water to preserve the stored water in Lake Sonoma, which serves as the primary drinking water source for some 600,000 people in Sonoma and Marin counties.

“Releasing less water from Lake Sonoma and reducing the amount of water pumped from the Russian River are critical methods to saving water for our communities and environment,” Sonoma County Supervisor and Sonoma Water Board Chair Lynda Hopkins said.

The lack of flowing water on the Russian River at Memorial Bridge is viewed on June 3, 2021, near Healdsburg, (George Rose/Getty Images)

The lack of flowing water on the Russian River at Memorial Bridge is viewed on June 3, 2021, near Healdsburg, (George Rose/Getty Images)

“At the same time, we urge our community to implement water saving measures,” she said. “There is no water to waste and everyone in our community has a part in saving water during this drought.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a drought emergency proclamation for the watershed in April. Sonoma County subsequently followed suit.

Since then, water officials in Marin and Sonoma counties have also requested that customers reduce water use by 20 percent as the region’s drought worsens.

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With the SWRCB’s order, Sonoma County officials hope to maintain upwards of 100,000 acre-feet of water stored in Lake Sonoma by Oct. 1, 2021. The lake is currently at 131,551 acre-feet.

Information about Sonoma Water and the ongoing drought can be found at https://www.sonomawater.org.

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