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City urges water conservation

As drought conditions persist in Petaluma and throughout the county, the city has so far avoided water restrictions, something city and county water agency officials attribute to voluntary efforts to reduce water use.

However, Petaluma leaders cautioned residents at a recent City Council meeting that conservation efforts must continue in the months to come.

The county water agency and Petaluma city staff have been monitoring the region's water supply on a weekly and even daily basis as an unusually dry spring led to an equally dry summer, said Dave Iribarne, Petaluma's water conservation coordinator.

Those dry conditions have led to historically low water levels at Lake Mendocino, an important water source for the Sonoma County Water Agency.

The lake is at the third lowest level it's been in recent history, said Petaluma's public works director Dan St. John.

Despite dry conditions, water levels at Lake Mendocino have not dropped below a critical level that would trigger mandatory water conservation measures.

That's at least in part because of water conservation efforts at the county and city level, said Brad Sherwood, a spokesman for the Sonoma county Water Agency.

"The good news is, we're seeing a positive response from" the cities, he said. "Over all, their use has declined, and they've done so by implementing various conservation programs."

Petaluma reduced its water use from 2,210 acre feet in July and August of 2012 to about 2,000 acre feet in July and August of 2013, Sherwood said.

"Our citizens are responding, we're doing well," said Iribarne, who outlined a number of measures Petaluma has taken to reduce its overall water use this year.

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