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Rain does little for drought

Despite the weekend deluge of wet weather, which dropped about 5 inches of rain at the Petaluma airport, drought conditions persist across the state, causing state and regional officials to continue the campaign to conserve water.

"We'd need six or seven storms like the one we just experienced" to offset the drought, said Brad Sherwood, spokesman for the Sonoma County Water Agency. "We're at such a huge deficit from where we need to be in our reservoirs."

However small, the storm system did help the local water storage, raising the county's primary reservoir, Lake Mendocino, from 35 percent of capacity to 41 percent. But Sherwood said it's not enough, so water officials will continue to spread the word about the need for conservation.

"People who aren't in the business of water storage might think that a big storm like that would take us out of the drought, but it didn't," said Petaluma's Public Works Director Dan St. John. "The drought is not over. Reservoirs are still very low and conservation is still necessary."

Nonetheless, St. John said crews from his department were prepared all weekend for floods that never came — despite a warning from the National Weather Service that Petaluma was at risk for flash floods. Local rivers and creeks swelled with the rush of rainwater, but none spilled over their banks.

Sherwood said that Sonoma County residents have been proactive in their conservation efforts; his office regularly fields phone calls from people seeking tips on how to use less water at home and work.

St. John added that Petaluma has enacted the first stage of its water shortage contingency plan, which asks for a voluntary 15 percent reduction in water usage. Moving into the second stage, which calls for 20 percent mandatory cuts, would take an act of the Petaluma City Council.

"If and when the drought gets deeper, we'll go into that second stage," he said.


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