Russian River Drought Readiness Report

August 7, 2018

CW3E with Sonoma Water and research collaborators released a Drought Readiness Report for the Russian River Watershed this past month. The report focuses on research from a NOAA SARP (Sectoral Application Research Program) project to examine past, present and future drought in the Russian River Watershed as well as highlights on-going activities in the region to build resilience to future droughts.

Research findings from the project contributed to the regional understanding of the important role extreme events, particularly atmospheric rivers (ARs), play in determining if a year will be wet or dry and how this may lead to drought. Using both a historical analysis and projections from future climate models, researcher M. Dettinger showed that enhanced variability in extreme events has the potential to lead to more droughts in the region.

Additionally, through discussion with regional stakeholders and historical analyses, regional drought indicators were developed for the Russian River in an effort lead by L. Flint. These indicators include precipitation, temperature, reservoir levels, climatic water deficit (the thirst of the land), and stream flow and recharge. These indicators highlight different types of drought (landscape versus water supply) and analysis has shown that not all indicators recover from drought at the same rate.

Several drought preparedness projects are highlighted in the report, including the Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations Project at Lake Mendocino, the LandSmart Program through the Resource Conservation Programs and USDA, the Sonoma County Venture Conservation Partnership, the Water Use Efficiency Improvements Program, and water conservation efforts occurring in private industry at a Mendocino County winery. The report concludes with suggested next steps, including an improved understanding of how management of working and natural lands impacts water supply and quality as well as the importance of improved communication and collaboration between Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.

The project was in support of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). Lessons learned about best practices from this region will be shared with other watersheds, particularly those that face similar drought challenges being at the interface of urban and working/natural lands and/or highly variable year-to-year precipitation.