Sonoma County Water Agency officials have targeted $255,000 in nonprofit grant funds to assist study of the Russian River watershed and launch a pair of conservation projects.

One of the water-saving projects aims to help the agency detect leaks on residential accounts.

The grants would come from the California Water Foundation, a Sacramento-based nonprofit that supports investment in sustainable management of the state's water supply.

County supervisors, who act as the Water Agency's board of directors, gave the go-ahead Tuesday to apply for the funds.

Lester Snow, the California Water Foundation's executive director, suggested the grant award is nearly a done deal and that final approval could come by the end of this year.

The grant recognizes the county's efforts to balance economic and environmental needs in managing its water supply, he said.

"Too many agencies in California are worried just about filling the pipe," he said. "Here the approach is much more progressive."

Snow served as California's natural resources secretary in 2010 and was previously the director of the state's Department of Water Resources. He was present Tuesday for the board's green-light of the grant application.

The Water Agency is set to dedicate $110,000 of its money to the four programs. They include:

Development of a web-based mapping and data system that incorporates real-time water and weather information on the Russian River watershed.

Development of a model showing the relationship of surface water to groundwater in the upper Russian River, from the Dry Creek confluence to Lake Mendocino.

Installation of approximately 100 devices on residential accounts to detect leaks and the accuracy of current meters in registering leaks.

Launch of a pilot program that would allow the sale of efficiency credits between customers who come in below their normal water usage and those who exceed their threshold.

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or