Ukiah Valley residents, businesses and farmers will be required to cut their dependence on Lake Mendocino water by half beginning next month.
The Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District board of directors Monday night unanimously adopted the 50 percent mandatory cutbacks in an effort to maintain as much water as they can in drought-plagued Lake Mendocino.
As of Monday afternoon, there was an estimated 28,512 acre feet of water in the shrinking lake, about 41.7 percent of capacity.
"I don't see any other way to do it," said district board member Lee Howard.
No one at the meeting voiced opposition to the measure.
The district holds Mendocino County's right to 8,000 acre feet of water in Lake Mendocino. It sells that water to seven municipal water districts and about 40 farmers. It's up to the individual water districts to implement water saving measures.
The district also voted Monday night to entirely cut off Redwood Valley, which is only allowed to purchase surplus water because it is not within the Russian River district's boundaries.
There is no surplus water to sell, the board agreed. Redwood Valley is expected to be able to purchase water from Sonoma County, which owns a majority of the rights to Lake Mendocino water.
Until now, Redwood Valley had a contract to use up to 1,300 acre feet of water. That water now can be distributed among the customers who are within Russian River district boundaries.
The Russian River district also hopes to save another 800 acre feet of water that the city of Ukiah has a contract to purchase. The city has other water sources and normally needs district water only for irrigation purposes.
City staff has recommended approval of the request, which the Ukiah City Council will consider at its March 5 meeting.
The Russian River district also will be asking farmers within the district to notify them of any water they may not need this year.
The water districts that are dependent on Russian River district water are expected to adopt mandatory water reductions in the coming weeks.
Dave Redding, who manages several small water districts, said he expects the cutbacks will affect primarily landscaping and other outdoor water uses, even in Hopland, the only Russian River district customer entirely dependent on district water.
He believes most of the water companies will be able to meet the 50 percent reduction by limiting residences to 6,000 gallons a month.
"That's basically 50 gallons per day per person" for a household of four, Redding said.
He said commercial customers will have to be evaluated separately.
State officials also expressed concern about Mendocino County water Monday. Members of the governor's Drought Task Force met with local officials in Ukiah to gather information about drought conditions. They said they were impressed with the steps Mendocino County officials have made to deal with the drought.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org