Subscribe

Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino water levels at record low for this time of year

A second year of extremely low rainfall has left water storage in Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino at the lowest levels for this time of year since the reservoirs were filled decades ago, Sonoma County’s water agency said Tuesday.

Lake Sonoma had 154,729 acre-feet of water at last check, or about 63% of its storage capacity for this time of year, while Lake Mendocino, the smaller of the two, had about 45% of its targeted storage, or about 36,000 acre-feet.

Together, the two reservoirs supply drinking water for more than 600,000 people in three counties — Sonoma, Mendocino and Marin.

The east fork of the Russian River cuts a deeper path through the exposed north end of Lake Mendocino, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 as Ukiah residents, Riley, Seychell, Renee and Jett, 5, who didn't want their last namesused, enjoy a family outing at the lake.  The reservoir continues to recede as rain deficits mount in the region.  (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021
The east fork of the Russian River cuts a deeper path through the exposed north end of Lake Mendocino, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 as Ukiah residents, Riley, Seychell, Renee and Jett, 5, who didn't want their last namesused, enjoy a family outing at the lake. The reservoir continues to recede as rain deficits mount in the region. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021

The situation is particularly dire for Lake Mendocino, which serves municipal and rural users around Ukiah and is managed to sustain flows in the upper Russian River during drier months. Given the dry summer months ahead, it could become too low to support such releases by this fall, absent sufficient conservation measures, the water agency said.

Officials are asking for voluntary reductions in water use, but that could change quickly, said Grant Davis, general manager of Sonoma Water.

A growing shoreline at Lake Sonoma, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 underlines the lack of rainfall this winter.  (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021
A growing shoreline at Lake Sonoma, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 underlines the lack of rainfall this winter. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021

“We are faced with the second year of very dry conditions, and the entire Russian River watershed will need to come together, yet again, like we’ve done in the past, to reduce diversions out of the Russian River system and to practice good water conservation and efficiency measures to get through this particular year and into next year,” Davis said.

The supply situation is even worse than it was during the 2012-16 drought, when reservoir levels dropped even lower than they are now toward the end of 2014, but late in the year — beyond the high-water-use summer months, with only weeks to go before the prospect of winter rain to restore supply.

The level of Lake Mendocino continues to drop, Monday Dec. 30. 2013 in Ukiah. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013
The level of Lake Mendocino continues to drop, Monday Dec. 30. 2013 in Ukiah. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

Right now, though there is some possibility of spring rain in the next couple of weeks, the bulk of the wet season is largely concluded, with just under 13 inches of rain since Oct. 1 in Santa Rosa, or about 40% of normal.

Last year at this time, Santa Rosa had received just under 17 inches of rain, or 53% of average rainfall of 31.90 inches by March 29.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Editor’s note: The rainfall totals for Oct. 1 to March 29, 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been corrected. They previously were reversed.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette