Windsor this week joined a growing list of cities declaring a water shortage emergency and asking their residents to conserve.
The Town Council on Wednesday approved a resolution seeking voluntary reductions in water use of 20 percent.
"It's pretty evident with the way the weather's been and the way things are, everybody realizes there is a water shortage and that we do need to voluntarily cut back on our water use," Mayor Bruce Okrepkie said.
With 2013 logging the lowest recorded rainfall in 120 years, the resolution outlines the low levels in the two main reservoirs that feed the Russian River, the region's main source of potable water.
Lake Mendocino, near Ukiah, is the most severely affected and is currently at about 41 percent of capacity.
Releases from the lake into the Russian River have been cut to a bare minimum, forcing cities on the upper Russian River, from Healdsburg to Ukiah, to enact mandatory water conservation measures for their residents.
Lake Sonoma, which empties into the lower Russian River and supplies most of Sonoma County and North Marin, has about 68 percent of capacity. But if dry weather conditions persists, it is projected to reach critical storage levels in November if no conservation measures are taken, Windsor officials said.
The Sonoma County Water Agency, which supplies Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sonoma, Windsor and several smaller agencies, has requested that all its contractors call for voluntary conservation of 20 percent, similar to Gov. Jerry Brown's request statewide.
Windsor gets about 90 percent of its water from its own well fields along the Russian River and the rest from the county water agency, but also wants residents to cut water use.
"This is the opportunity for us to say 'Hey this is voluntary. If it does get worse, we may be asking you to take more drastic measures,'" Windsor Town Manager Linda Kelly said Thursday.
With the voluntary measures in effect, the town asks that cars and other vehicles be washed only with a bucket and hose nozzle for a quick rinse.
Other ways to conserve include not letting the water run while rinsing dishes; shortening showers, fixing leaky faucets, installing drip irrigation; and adding mulch around trees and plants.
In an attempt to save potable water, Windsor has been a leader in the use reclaimed water — employing it to flush toilets at the high school and irrigate sports fields, parks and lawns in some subdivisions.
It also has the innovative Windsor Efficiency PAYS program, which allows homeowners and renters to install water-saving appliances, devices and landscaping without any-out-of pocket costs, but pay for it in installments on their water bills.
More than 220 single-family homes and 223 multi-family units have signed up, leading to a savings of about 6 million gallons of water per year, according to figures cited by Councilwoman Debora Fudge.
More information on the program is available at www.windsorefficiencypays.com.
(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)