Water is an important topic here in Mendocino County for farmers, ranchers, wildlife, residents and businesses. Farmers and ranchers in Mendocino County are very aware of the importance of a long-term, reliable water supply and good water quality for everyone. Mendocino County Farm Bureau works directly with farmers and ranchers in the various watersheds to consider critically important water issues. Farm Bureau’s Water Committee reaches out to collaborate with multiple stakeholder groups and seeks to build partnerships that allow us to do even more for our members.
Water Committee News
Submitted by Frost Pauli, Water Committee Chair
The drought it real and its here to stay. As of March 25, 2021, Lake Mendocino storage level is 35,781 acre feet. In comparison, Lake Mendocino storage levels coming into the summer season of 2014 were approximately 51,000 acre feet, significantly higher than the current record lows. As a result of the drought, some local organizations are proactively taking action to reduce water use and bring attention to the dry conditions.
On March 9th, the Russian River Flood Control District (RRFC) made a Declaration stating there is a high probability of reduced surface water availably which will likely lead to a water shortage for its customers. At their March 29th Special Meeting, the RRFC Board voted to notify the SWRCB of the District’s intent to proactively manage the available water supply and mitigate drought condition impacts through the development of a voluntary agreement. They are hoping that this will improve the outcome for District customers and maximize beneficial use of the available volume of water in 2021. According to Elizabeth Salomone, the General Manager of the RRFC “The District is now considering acknowledgement of the inability of the water supply to meet the demands of its customers and the impacts of a potential SWRCB issued curtailment to its water right.”
On March 16th, Mendocino County Farm Bureau, The City of Ukiah and RRFC, along with other members of the “Water Resiliency Task Force,” released a joint Press Release warning water user in the Russian River basin about State Water Board actions, which will likely include curtailments of water rights. The goal of the Task Force will be to develop a voluntary conservation program which would hopefully prevent the need for the State Water Board to implement curtailments and further regulation.
On March 22nd, The State Water Board announced that they sent 40,000 farmers, municipal officials and others, warning them of potential water shortages. “Start planning now for potential water supply shortages later this year and identify practical actions you can take to increase drought resilience, such as increasing water conservation measures, reducing irrigated acreage, managing herd size, using innovative irrigation and monitoring technologies, or diversifying your water supply portfolio,” the letter read in part.
On March 25th, The Redwood Valley County Water District Board of Directors voted to shut off irrigation delivery services beginning April 19th. This will preserve water for its residential customers. It is unclear exactly how many Ag water users will be affected but it is clear that our neighbors in Redwood Valley will have an extremely difficult farming year.
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Water Diversion and Use Reporting
If you divert and use water from a surface water source such as a lake, creek, stream, or river, or you divert water from a subterranean stream that flows in a known and definite channel, California law requires you to report your diversion and use to the State Water Board, Division of Water Rights. Water use reports shall be filed on an annual basis and shall document diversions made during the prior calendar year. Reports for permits, licenses, registrations and certificates are due by April 1st. Statements of water diversion and use (riparian rights) or groundwater recordation are due by July 1st. All water right holders who have previously diverted or intend to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year (riparian and pre-1914 ), or are authorized to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year under a permit, license, or registration, are required to measure the water they divert.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)
In December 2014, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the ground water basin classifications to determine coverage under SGMA. For Mendocino County, the upper Russian River from the Tomki Road area in Redwood Valley to Knight Hill (north of Hopland) was classified as a medium priority ground water basin, the Ukiah Valley ground water basin # 1-52, and is subject to SGMA compliance. From July of 2016 until July of 2017, the Mendocino County Water Agency hosted public meetings to assist in the formation of the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) and Farm Bureau was at the table to ensure that agriculture was represented in the process. The GSA formation was the first step to work toward compliance and this was completed in June of 2017. The Ukiah Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (UVBGSA) was created by a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) and have been meeting regularly since 2017 to work toward the development of the groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) for the basin. The GSP will need to be finalized and submitted to DWR by 2022. For additional information, please see the links below.
Other Water Related Resources
“In my opinion, the benefits realized from the small amount of money we pay for the membership, by far outweighs the cost. If I had to go to a Water Rights Specialist alone, I would be talking about hundreds if not thousands of dollars.”member since 1995