Gov. Newsom Proclaims Drought Emergency in Russian River Watershed

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation Wednesday, ordering state agencies to fortify the state’s drought resilience and declaring a regional drought emergency in the Russian River watershed.

Newsom used the proclamation to direct the state government to work with local government agencies to identify watersheds, communities and ecosystems that would be hardest-hit by a long-term drought and could require coordinated assistance from state, local and tribal governments as a result. 

For the Russian River watershed, which partially flows through Sonoma County, Newsom ordered the state’s Water Resources Control Board to determine ways to ensure there is sufficient water supply in the area, particularly in Lake Mendocino. 

“Climate change is intensifying both the frequency and the severity of dry periods,” Newsom said in a statement. “This ‘new normal’ gives urgency to building drought resilience in regions across the state and preparing for what may be a prolonged drought at our doorstep.”

Local officials in Sonoma County applauded Newsom’s actions, noting that water storage levels at Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma are both at historically low levels. 

They also warned residents to start saving water now in the event the drought continues beyond 2021. 

“The drought is impacting not only our municipal water utilities, but also our rural and agricultural communities, including livestock and dairies,” said Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, who is also sits on the Sonoma County Water Agency’s Board of Directors. 

“Emergency assistance is needed to help our dairies and agricultural communities as this drought continues and water supplies become unavailable from municipal sources as mandatory conservation orders are issued later this summer,” Rabbitt said.

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