With the region's reservoirs dipping to historically lows, locals are being recruited into a water saving army--whether they like it or not.
Within days, flows on the Russian River will drop nearly 60 percent, while 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties drawing drinking water from it are being told to cut usage by a fifth.
That's by order of state regulators Tuesday, who approved SonomaWater's plan. Officials are trying to prevent Lake Sonoma from dipping below critical levels and Lake Mendocino from drying up entirely.
Barry Dugan, with SonomaWater, said even drought conscious locals can do more.
"It's easy to reduce your shower time by 20%,” Dugan said. “Maybe don't shower as often. We don't need to flush our toilet every time. To recycle an old adage from the '76-'77 drought, 'if it's yellow, let it mellow, but If it's brown, flush it down.’"
Regulators meeting Tuesday also considered suspending water rights to 2,400 users, mainly agricultural, along the river. Dugan is doubtful his agency can do anything to ease the pain.
For those looking to substitute groundwater, good luck. Jim Mickelson, owner of a Sonoma County well-installing company, said he already has a months-long backlog of work. He had sober words for those now realizing they need a well this year, telling KRCB "it's probably not going to happen."
For Larry Laba, owner of a watercraft rental and guide company, the outlook is troublesome.
"The drought really throws another huge monkey-wrench at us," Laba said.
He said he counterintuitively saw strong business last year---kayaking doesn't come with a high risk of COVID exposure. But now the future is uncertain.
"There's going to be people that will not want to come down the river this year because of the low conditions," Laba said.