North Bay residents anticipating water cuts

SONOMA COUNTY, CA

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Lollie Mercer may be the poster woman for uncertainty in Sonoma County this season. Her canoes and kayaks can often be seen along the Russian River in Healdsburg. At least, she hopes it will be a river.

"I've written three different business plans and cash flows. One if we get water, one if we don't get water, and one if we get water for half of the season," she said.

Mercer is planning on option three, now that the Sonoma County Water Agency has announced a 25 percent reduction of flow into the river this summer.

It will be 25 percent for everyone else as well, based on orders from the state, to the water agency where Pam Jeane works as deputy chief engineer.

"Their philosophy is that if other folks are going to be impacted, whether they're recreators or other folks on the river, other people are impacted by this, everybody has to share the pain," Jeane explained.

A 25 percent cutback is the largest in this county since the drought of 1977. Yet, it could have been much worse. Two months ago, water officials worried that without a rainy February there would be cutbacks of 40 percent.

Jeane called it "a half miracle."

The Sonoma Water Agency gets much of its supply from Lake Mendocino. For much of the winter the lake was almost bone dry. Storage has improved since then, but it remains so low that as part of its plan, the state will prohibit commercial grass irrigation beginning May 1st.

The City of Santa Rosa, among others, finds that language to be vague. Glen Wright with Santa Rosa Water Resources says, "We're confused about what 'commercial grass means.'"

The county has about one month to figure that out, along with its methods for enforcement.

California water officials have produced a five-minute documentary on the drought situation called "California's Water: A Crisis We Can't Ignore."

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