Water levels lower, but still flowing on Russian River

HEALDSBURG, Calif. (KGO) -- A lot of people are heading to Russian River for the holiday weekend and no doubt wondering how the drought is affecting all the recreational activities along the 110-mile river.

Trendy Healdsburg is filling up with tourists who came for the food, the wine and the Russian River.

Larry Laba has been working as a river guide on the Russian River for 15 years. He leads people on rafts as far as eight miles in six hours. The good news is that he's even doing this in a drought year, against many odds. Though, he said he's never seen the water this low.

The river is flowing roughly 50-cubic-feet per second, a little more than half the ideal at this time of year. Water was released from Lake Mendocino that serves drinking needs, agriculture, recreation and later this year fish returning to spawn.

Pam Jeane runs operations for the Sonoma County Water Agency.

"My biggest concern is that we preserve enough water for the fish coming back in the fall. And of course, if it doesn't rain again this winter we need to have that water there to cover into next year, Jeane said. "At this point, we think there is enough."

The plan is to keep water flowing through at this level all summer. It's a bit shallower in places.

"On our section of the river, in the first mile there might be a couple of spots where they have to get out and pull their boat five or six feet," said Laba of Russian River Adventures.

But it beats the alternative. In a heavy drought year, that river is still wet and flowing, the kind of damper you want on a Fourth of July weekend.

Water levels at Lake Mendocino, the lake that feeds the Russian River, are so low that in two or three weeks officials may close it to boating for the duration of the summer.

To learn how much water your city is required to cut back, click here. For water rebate information from Bay Area water suppliers, click here. And click here for tips on how to conserve water. To learn more about how to report water wasters #WhereYouLive, click here.

For full coverage on the drought, click here.
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