Where Will California North Coast Get Its Water if Drought Becomes Common?

With parts of the North Coast facing what forecasters say is shaping up to be “extreme drought” this year, the region’s water managers are busy exploring near- and long-term options.

But new large reservoirs like Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino aren’t among them.

Even as the first of seven large reservoirs funded by the 2014 $2.7 billion California water bond is set to get under construction elsewhere in the state, agency officials and local lawmakers say the regulatory and political environment has shifted dramatically from decades ago when the Golden State’s big water catchments were constructed.

Opinion: For California, Drought is the New Normal

Rain came early last fall, but whatever hope blossomed for a better than normal — or even average — year is gone. There is no March miracle in the forecast, and summers are dry in California, so mandatory water conservation isn’t going away any time soon.

“We had a great start to the beginning of the wet season … and we have basically flatlined since then,” Jeanine Jones of the California Department of Water Resources said during a virtual town hall meeting on Thursday that Sonoma Water billed as “a huge reality check.”

Dry January and Rain-free Forecast Puts All Hope in a Miracle March

There’s the kind of Dry January that follows an overly indulgent holiday season, where you swear off alcohol for the first 31 days of the new year.

Then there’s the kind we just had, where, except for a few errant spits of rain, the skies remained clear for an entire month with no significant rain in sight.

It won’t be the first time January has been dry, from a strictly meteorological perspective. And it’s not the worst thing that can happen, assuming there’s been sufficient rain in advance or in the months ahead.

Lower Russian River Flows to Be Halved Under State Order to Preserve Stored Supplies

The Sonoma County water agency received permission Monday to immediately cut stream flows in the lower Russian River by more than half in an effort to conserve water stored in Lake Sonoma.

Instream flows in the upper river, above Dry Creek, which is fed by releases from Lake Sonoma, already are being maintained at a very low threshold to keep as much water as possible in Lake Mendocino, the smaller of the two reservoirs.

The state decision means Sonoma Water, the county agency, and its contractors — the cities of Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Rohnert Park, Windsor, Petaluma and Cotati, and the Valley of the Moon, Marin Municipal and North Marin water districts — will have to use 20% less water from the Russian River, as well.