As drought eases, district prepares for dry summer
December 30, 2021 — The drought is still on, in spite of the recent rain and snowfall in the region. But next week, the town of Mendocino, where the situation was desperate just a few months ago, could see a loosening of drought restrictions from a drastic mandatory reduction to a still-significant but much smaller and merely requested reduction. On Wednesday, Ryan Rhoades, the superintendent of the Mendocino City Community Services District, said rain measurements for the current rain year were about 19.03 inches, “which is very good for this time of year.” At a special MCCSD meeting on January 3rd, he plans to recommend changing the status of the water shortage emergency from a Stage Four to a Stage Two. Stage Four has the most stringent measures, including a mandatory 40% reduction, while Stage Two includes a request that residents reduce their water by 15%. Rhoades said that is a reduction from the amount that people were using prior to the drought, no the already-reduced amount. “It’s just reminding people that we’re not completely out of the woods,” he explained. “Please continue to conserve and be responsible with water.” He added that, “people did an incredible job,” complying with the mandatory reductions over the summer.
Rhoades is also grateful for the water hauling program that the county and the cities of Fort Bragg and Ukiah pulled together at the end of the summer. The program provided water to people all over the coast, not just in his service district.
According to a report that Howard Dashiell of the Mendocino County Department of Transportation presented to the Board of Supervisors earlier this month, a total of 1,291,100 gallons of water were hauled from Ukiah to Fort Bragg. 51% of that was hauled for residential use. The county received a $2 million grant from the state to reimburse its costs for the program, but Dashiell said he expects the costs to come out to $325,000-350,000, including staff time. He estimates that less than $100,000 will come out of the general fund to cover commercial water. The remaining grant money will be available to the county until February of 2023.
In the meantime, the MCCSD recently applied to the State Department of Water Resources Urban and Multibenefit Drought Relief Program for over eight million dollars’ worth of grants to upgrade the town’s recycled water system and increase storage. The governor highlighted both strategies in his drought declaration this summer. Rhoades specifically wants to provide more recycled water to the school district, which “reduces their need for potable water for other uses,” he explained. “Basically, it leaves more groundwater for neighbors and other residents.” The other program he’s applied for is an emergency water storage reserve, or a 500,000 gallon storage tank, and money to drill ten wells to fill the tank, as well as an emergency intertie to the school district.
The MCCSD didn’t make the cut for the first round of grants, but should find out in February if its projects will be funded in the second round.
In the meantime, Rhoades urged everyone to store as much water as they can. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a 5,000 poly-holding tank or a three-story redwood water tower,” he pointed out. “If you’re using it for human consumption, you want something that is rated and safe to store the water in. But if it’s for agricultural needs, whatever containers are available. And it’s one of the fastest things you can do. Because the projects we’re proposing to do are going to take years to develop.”