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Water officials consider conservation tactics as Lake Mendocino shrinks

  • 1/3/2014:B1: The Russian River trickles into Lake Mendocino last month. Water officials are bracing for a second dry year.

    PC: The Russian River trickles in to the north end of of Lake Mendocino, Friday Dec. 13, 2013 in Ukiah. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

Redwood Valley water officials are girding for emergency action as a shrinking Lake Mendocino threatens to drop below the pumping intake.

"At the rate we're dropping, we have approximately 60 days before our intake pops out" of the water, said Redwood Valley County Water District manager Bill Koehler. The district is the only water agency that takes its water directly from the lake.

The district serves about 4,000 residential customers and 200 agricultural users north of Ukiah.

Lake Mendocino

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Other agencies that utilize Lake Mendocino water primarily draw it from wells fed by underflow from the Russian River below Lake Mendocino.

All will be scrambling for water if drought conditions persist.

Without rainfall, the lake could disappear in 230 to 670 days, depending on water flows into and out of the lake, evaporation rates and amount of lake sedimentation, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The surface level on Tuesday fell to 706.9 feet above sea level and the reservoir held 25,503 acre feet of water.

The lake bottom is at about 641 feet above sea level. The Redwood Valley water district's water intake pipe is at roughly 695 feet above sea level, about 11 feet below the current surface, Koehler said

The Redwood Valley water district on Thursday will be discussing ways to deal with the problem should rain continue to bypass the North Coast. Its board also is expected to discuss possible water restrictions . They've already been asked to voluntarily reduce water consumption, Koehler said.

Koehler said the district has several emergency contingency plans, including one that should allow the district to pump from the lake for an additional 60 days. The district, established in the late 1970s, has never before implemented the plan, Koehler said.


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