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PD Editorial: Time for action on saving water

  • With rainfall totals far below average, Lake Mendocino has receded far from the boat ramp. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

Close the books. The year that just ended will be remembered as the worst on record — for the state and for the North Coast — for rainfall.

In an average calendar year, the Santa Rosa basin (stretching roughly from Windsor to Rohnert Park) receives about 32.5 inches. From Jan. 1, 2013 to the end of year, it received 5.7 inches, according to the Sonoma County Water Agency.

The Ukiah basin, which normally receives about 33 inches of rain, received 7.8 inches.

Before now, the two worst drought years on record — dating back 119 years — were 1976 and 1932. But data on the upper reaches of the Russian River show that area had received significantly less rain then either of those dry years.

And there's no rain in sight. While a high-pressure system off the coast continues to push away moist air, creating idyllic holiday conditions for vacationing school children, it's setting up the region for real hardship in the months ahead.

At least 2013 ended on a high note for what needs to be done to confront the North Coast's dry conditions. On New Year's Eve, the state Water Resources Control Board issued an order approving the Sonoma County Water Agency's bid for urgent action to help preserve water in Lake Mendocino. The order will allow the Water Agency to cut flows, thereby saving water in Lake Mendocino, which is now critically low at 39 percent of capacity.

Meanwhile, Lake Sonoma is at 70 percent of capacity — not a dire situation but cause for considerable concern if dry conditions persist.

Next week, the Water Agency is expected to issue some aggressive conservation guidelines on water usage. But customers don't need to wait for state or local water officials to issue new directives in order to do something. Here are some easy-to-understand measures suggested by the Water Agency that can make a difference:

• Water your yards only when necessary and only in morning or evening. Let's face it. During these winter months, most yards don't need watering at all.

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