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Dry Times 

Water conservation is the key

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The drought is still on. Lake Sonoma is currently at 70 percent water-supply capacity and Lake Mendocino is at 42 percent, both well below average for this time of year. The water-supply outlook could have been worse had it not been for the tremendous conservation efforts of our communities. The upper Russian River communities have implemented mandatory conservation orders that have resulted in reductions in the demand for water.

Conservation efforts are also underway in portions of Sonoma and Marin counties, which include the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership. The partnership represents nine major public water utilities that deliver water to over 600,000 residents in portions of Sonoma and Marin counties. This includes the Sonoma County Water Agency, our region's primary drinking water supplier. The partnership continues to enforce a 20 percent water reduction goal across our region, and most likely you have seen its public outreach campaign posters around town: "There's a drought on. Turn the water off."

The drought is with us for as long as Mother Nature allows. The forecast of an El Niño winter will not be our solution to this drought. Though El Niño conditions have a good chance of providing either average or above average rainfall, the bottom line is that we live in a drought-prone region. We can only tackle this and other droughts by making immediate and permanent water-saving changes, both behaviorally and physically.

We can replace our old, inefficient toilets with new, low-water-use toilets. We can keep water on our minds and remember to not wash down our sidewalks. If we all pitch in and implement these tips, we can save a lot of water, which will not only benefit our local drinking-water supply, it will help our environment during this and future droughts.

I encourage everyone to visit the partnership's website at www.wateroff.org to learn more about the drought and how to save water.

Brad Sherwood is a program specialist for community and government affairs for the Sonoma County Water Agency.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the 'Bohemian.' We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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