Water supply decisions delayed; officials pray for more rain

Recent heavy rains prompted North Bay water officials on Monday to delay for a month decisions on how much less Russian River water will be available this summer for residents and businesses from Windsor to San Rafael.

?What we don?t know is the climate situation in 30 days; it could pour buckets and our reservoirs would be replenished,? said Santa Rosa Mayor Susan Gorin.

February has been wet. Santa Rosa received 8.76 inches of rain, 44 percent more than the average of 6.08 inches. Nearly as much, 8.45 inches, fell at Coyote Dam at Lake Mendocino, a critical part of the regional water supply. Total rainfall since July 1 still remains well below normal.

California drought 2008-2009


Gorin also said that wet weather makes it harder to sell residents on conservation. ?There is a disconnect,? said Gorin, who is vice chairwoman of the Sonoma County Water Agency?s advisory committee.

The committee represents the agency?s major buyers: Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Sonoma and Petaluma and Valley of the Moon, North Marin and Marin Municipal water districts. Those cities and districts serve about 600,000 residents.

The cost of water will also go up as water sales are cut back, largely because of the fixed costs of operting the delivery system. That is the case even though the Water Agency said it has laid off 25 percent of its staff and shut three of six pumping stations.

The cost of water per acre-foot is expected to increase 20 percent for Santa Rosa and Windsor, 10.5 percent for Rohnert Park, Cotati, Petaluma and the Marin Municipal and North Marin water districts and 29 percent for Sonoma and Valley of the Moon.

The water allocation agreement calls for the delivery of 52,000 acre-feet for the year, about 10 percent less than last year, but approval was delayed Monday until April 6.

During the critical months of June through October, the agency would deliver 5,000 acre-feet per month, which is 70 percent of normal demand.

That would require conservation measures of up to 30 percent, depending on how the cities and districts use wells and other reservoirs to supplement their allocations.

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