Lake Sonoma, Lake Mendocino get runoff boost from recent storms


Drought-weary North Bay residents are getting an early holiday present from Mother Nature as sporadic December storms have boosted the water level in the region’s largest reservoir and set the stage for bigger gains if rain continues to fall.

Lake Sonoma, the key source of water for 600,000 customers in Sonoma and Marin counties, hit 66.9 percent of water storage capacity Thursday, up two-tenths of a point since Dec. 1 — a small but significant increase that marked the reservoir’s first uptick since June 30, when it was 81.7 percent full.

Water managers call that an “inflection point,” and Jay Jasperse, the Sonoma County Water Agency’s chief engineer, said it is “good news,” with better news possibly on the way.

The storms that have dropped just over 5 inches of rain in the Santa Rosa basin since Oct. 1 have essentially saturated the near-surface soil, allowing water to run off into reservoirs, a trend that appears to be happening to California’s largest reservoirs, as well.

“Runoff hasn’t been huge,” Jasperse said, declaring he is “cautiously optimistic” that soggy soil will keep most of the upcoming rain on the surface and draining into reservoirs.

More rain is expected Friday, over the weekend and continuing next week, consulting meteorologist Jan Null said. “A wet pattern is setting up,” he said, with no downpours but “consistent rain through the end of the year.”

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