Spirits were lifted when Santa Rosa recorded a robust 9.34 inches of rainfall in February, far better than the region's 30-year average of 6 inches.

But hopes of a "Miracle March" — similar to the one that brought local water supplies back to normal levels in 1991 and nearly normal in 2012 — have all but evaporated. The region has received a scant 0.77 inches this month, and although some showers are expected this week, that may be as good as it gets.

And in the grand scheme of things, it's not enough.

Winter officially ended on Thursday. And, overall, this was the 15th driest winter for Santa Rosa since 1931. For California's North Coast Region, stretching from Sonoma County to the Oregon border, it was the third-driest on record.

And the prospects don't look much better going forward.

The entire West Coast is the only zone in the lower 48 states with a "below normal" probability of rain falling in the next three months.

As a result, the U.S. Drought Monitor has lowered Sonoma County back to "extreme drought" conditions.

The rainfall in February and early March was a relief for farmers whose crops were running dry and ranchers who were running critically low on rich pasture and rangeland for their livestock. It also may have averted mandatory water rationing measures for those in the lower Russian River regions.

Nevertheless, the Sonoma County Water Agency is asking contractors to comply with a voluntary 20 percent reduction. In some areas, such as the cities of Healdsburg, Cloverdale and Willits, mandatory restrictions are already in place.

Granted, many locals have already gone the extra mile, in lowering their water usage through planting drought-resistant landscapes, installing low-flow appliances and setting up water storage systems. For them, a reduction of 20 percent may be challenging.

But for the rest of us, conservation needs to become the norm. For ideas on how to scale back, go to the Water Agency web site at www.scwa.ca.gov/

Let's make the best use of the water we have. Because all indications are, that's all we're going to get for a while.