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Sonoma County Water Agency launches conservation effort

  • Yorty Creek above Cloverdale is showing the signs of the dry year on Lake Sonoma, trees that normally are underwater are high and dry. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) File Nov. 2013

Sonoma and Marin county water agencies have begun urging customers to conserve water in the face of the worst drought the region has seen in at least a century.

The Sonoma County Water Agency and the nine municipal and regional water systems that use its water launched their first-ever wintertime conservation campaign on Wednesday with the theme “The Drought is On; Turn the Water Off.”

Water managers say that Lake Sonoma, the centerpiece of the region's water supply, has about a year's worth of water left before the Water Agency would be forced to ration the supply to client cities and districts and their 600,000 customers. Coming out of a record dry year in 2013, they are hoping to extend that Lake Sonoma supply as long as possible before it reaches a critical level.

Lake Mendocino

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“We're very concerned; we want to take a proactive approach ... The more we can do now, the less dire an impact it will have on us if this continues,” said David Guhin, utilities director for the city of Santa Rosa, the largest water system reliant on Lake Sonoma.

The campaign will feature ads online in local broadcast and print outlets urging residents to conserve water, cutting down landscape irrigation, car washing, and other outdoor activities and publicizing existing programs to replace indoor appliances and fixtures with more efficient models.

This builds on an earlier campaign, over the summer, urging residents to take the “20 gallon challenge,” reducing their usage by that much every day. This new call, however, is much more urgent given the dire lack of precipitation in the rainy season so far.

Santa Rosa ended 2013 with just 8.71 inches of rain, according to Press Democrat records. The normal rainfall is 32.22 inches. According to Water Agency data, last year was the driest in 119 years of record keeping, well below the severe drought years of 1976 and 1932.

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