Public Opportunity to Review and Discuss Fish Habitat Enhancement Projects

It’s hard to imagine the Russian River without salmon or steelhead. These iconic fish were a major food supply for indigenous people and early settlers. They once gave the river the reputation as a world-renowned fly-fishing destination, are a critical link in the riparian food web – and are spectacularly beautiful.

In the early 2000s, the native populations of fish dropped so low that coho salmon were listed as endangered and Chinook salmon and steelhead were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Federal, state and local agencies and non-profit organizations reacted by funding fish recovery projects, including restoring sections of streams, removing barriers to fish migration, and creating a “nursery” that raises coho from eggs and releases them at various ages into spawning streams.

One of the most significant actions occurred in 2008, when National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued the Russian River Biological Opinion, requiring the Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to make changes in how these agencies used the Russian River and Dry Creek for water supply and flood control purposes.

The Biological Opinion focuses on three areas of improvement:  Habitat enhancement in Dry Creek (which carries water from Lake Sonoma to the Russian River); the development of a lagoon management program for the estuary (where the river meets the Pacific Ocean in Jenner and where there is plentiful food and habitat for young steelhead before they head to sea); and lowering river flows to provide better habitat for coho and steelhead (releases from Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino can sometimes result in water that moves too swiftly for the young, small fish).

It’s been nearly 12 years since the Biological Opinion was issued, and Sonoma Water and USACE have met major milestones:

  • Working with private landowners, more than three miles of habitat has been constructed and enhanced on 14-mile Dry Creek. These projects have stabilized banks, replaced invasive species with native riparian plants, and created riffles, pools and side channels for young fish to escape predators and high stream flows. The final three miles of habitat enhancement are in the planning stages with construction scheduled to begin in 2021. These projects will be funded primarily by the USACE.
  • Annually, a lagoon management plan is developed and implemented. The plans provide a blueprint for Sonoma Water for reducing flood risk if the mouth of the Russian River closes between May 15 and October 15, when young steelhead spend time in the estuary before heading out to sea. Estuary work also includes extensive water quality monitoring, fish surveys, studies of steelhead prey, and monitoring harbor seals and other pinnipeds.
  • A draft environmental impact report to change river flows in compliance with the Biological Opinion and to update water rights was released in 2016. Staff has been working to address public comments and meeting with resource agencies to further refine the project.

In a unique local twist, during the development of the Biological Opinion, Sonoma Water, Mendocino County and the USACE worked with NMFS to create the Public Policy Facilitating Committee (PPFC). The PPFC met regularly so policymakers could discuss in a public forum the science, surveys and studies that informed the document. Since the Biological Opinion was issued, the PPFC has met annually to receive a progress report.

This year’s PPFC meeting will be held on March 12, and will include an Open House at the Healdsburg Community Center (1557 Healdsburg Avenue) beginning at 4:00 p.m. This will be followed by a combined meeting of the PPFC and the Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project Community Meeting from 4-6 p.m. For additional details and the agenda, go to

This article was authored by Ann DuBay, of Sonoma Water, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.


Save The Butterflies and The Bees – Our Favorite Pollinators Are in Jeopardy

The Monarch Butterfly

One morning last summer, as I watched a pair of butterflies flying from bloom to bloom on a butterfly bush, I realized I hadn’t seen a Monarch Butterfly in years.  I did some research and learned some distressing news.

In January of 2019, the Xerces Society’s yearly census of the western monarch revealed that the numbers of Western Monarchs were down a dramatic 86% from just one year before. Scientists studying the Western Monarch predict that if we don’t take drastic measures now, the species has a 72% chance of going extinct in less than 20 years.

Monarchs are migratory wonders of nature, migrating up to 3,000 miles to their wintering grounds. Their miraculous migration occurs over generations, one generation communicating to the next the route it must take.  Like all butterflies, they are pollinators, drinking nectar from one flower, and depositing its pollen on the next.


The honeybee pollinates about one-third of our food crops. Honeybees have also been in decline for years with the current population of honeybees estimated at less than half what it was in the 1940s. In 2006, scientists discovered what they call Colony Collapse Disorder. Colony Collapse Disorder occurs when a colony’s worker bee population suddenly disappears. Hives cannot survive without their worker bees, so eventually, the entire hive dies.

The Causes

For Monarch butterflies, loss of habitat is a key cause for its population decline. For both the Monarchs and honeybees, the use of pesticides is another key factor.

Pesticides in the neonicotinoid (a systemic agricultural insecticide resembling nicotine) category are thought to be a culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder. Studies have shown that in non-lethal doses, neonicotinoids cause navigation disruption and memory loss in bees, even in low concentrations. These pesticides are found in our food sources and in our home gardens. A demoralizing study conducted in 2014 found that 50% of nursery plants tested in the U.S. and Canada contained residue of neonicotinoids in concentrations as high as 748 parts per billion (ppb). A dose of 193 ppb can kill a honeybee. A dose of 30 ppb can cause impairments to a bee’s ability to forage and navigate. Plants and seeds purchased to attract butterflies and bees can harm these pollinators if they have been treated with neonicotinoids.

Although some nursery chains have since reduced the numbers of plants on their shelves treated with neonicotinoids, plants containing neonicotinoid residue are still sold in retail nurseries. Typically, they do not come with a warning label.

A Call to Action – Help save the Monarchs and the bees. 

Go Organic!

Don’t use pesticides in your gardens. Pesticides include herbicides to kill weeds, insecticides to kill insects and fungicides as well. Most pesticides are non-specific and kill a broad range of species in addition to the pest. Insecticides kill beneficial insects in addition to those that eat our crops. Beneficial insects include those that pollinate our crops, such as bees and butterflies, and predatory insects that eat the plant eating bugs, such as ladybugs and lacewings. Pesticides kill bees and butterflies as well as “bad” bugs.

Purchase neonicotinoid-free plants and seeds. In Sonoma County we have several nurseries that sell organic and neonicotinoid-free landscape plants and seeds. Please ask your nurseries if they can assure you that the plants and seeds they sell you are not treated with neonicotinoids. If they can’t, head over to a locally-owned, sustainability-minded nursery. Also, the RRWA program ‘Our Water, Our World’ (OWOW) helps residents manage their home and garden pests in a way that helps protect our watershed. More information on OWOW can be found at

Build it and They Will Come

Create a Monarch Butterfly Waystation!

Monarch waystations must include the native milkweed plant because this is the only plant where Monarchs will lay their eggs and the only plant that Monarch caterpillars eat. In our region, the best time to plant milkweed seeds is from November to early spring.  A waystation must also include nectar plants on which the adult Monarchs can feed. Examples are the butterfly bush, salvias, and Ceonothus.

Monarch Waystations also attract bees! Bees feed on nectar-bearing plants, just as butterflies do.

For more information about creating a Monarch Waystation, please go to:

Proper Disposal of Pesticides

When you do go organic, remember to dispose of your unused pesticides through Sonoma County hazardous waste drop off locations. Please go to the following link for more information or call Eco-Desk 707-565-DESK (3375).

This article was authored by Cristina Goulart for the Town of Windsor, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.


Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle and Rot

America is a disposable nation. Each person, on average, produces more than 1,600 pounds of trash each year. In total, over 230 million tons of trash accumulates in landfills yearly in the United States. Growing up you have likely been taught to help reduce your waste by practicing the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Have you ever thought about what those terms really mean? Did you know that there are actually three more R’s that we can practice to help make the planet healthier? To help reduce our impact on the environment, it’s time to practice the 6 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle and Rot.

We use these terms when we talk about what to do with stuff we no longer want, need or even stuff we want to purchase. It could refer to the plastic bottle or straw you just used to drink your water. It could refer to the clothes you wear every day. If we think about these terms in relation to the things we use in our daily lives, we can practice the 6 R’s every day, making the planet healthier day by day!

The first and most important R is Refuse. This R can be the most difficult to embrace, especially when it challenges habits that we’ve formed over a lifetime. Those few extra seconds you take to refuse a single-use disposable will help you keep waste out of the landfill or from ending up in our creeks.  Some first steps are saying no to freebies, single-use plastics, disposable items and junk mail.

The second R is Reduce. Reduce the number of things you buy and donate/sell items you don’t need or use. Not only can you reduce your consumption, but you can save time, space and sanity. A quick step to help reduce the things you buy is wait 30 days before buying something new or create household rules like everything has a home or one thing in and one thing out.  Don’t forget to apply the reduce principle to your energy and water consumption.

Third, Reuse. Start to replace disposable with reusable. You have probably done this without even knowing, whether it’s reusing jars or buying second hand. Look for opportunities to extend the life of items or even find a new use (upcycling)!

The fourth principle is Repair. When a product breaks down or doesn’t function properly, fix it. It’s often easy and convenient to just replace something broken. Try and find someone to repair it or learn how to repair it yourself. When shopping, buy items that can be repaired.

Next, Recycle. Although this is the first thing we might think of, it is estimated that roughly 90% of the worldwide plastics in use DO NOT get recycled. What you can’t refuse, reduce, reuse or repair be sure to recycle. Check with your local recycler on what can and cannot by recycled.

Lastly, Rot. Compost accepted materials that are not in the other R’s.  Did you know some organics can be included in your yard waste bin for composting?  Some examples include green waste, pizza boxes, food waste, and coffee grounds. Contact your local recycler for a full list of compostable items.

For more information on consumer recycling and composting contact:

  • Mendocino County: or call the Recycling Hotline at (707) 468‐9710.
  • Sonoma County: or call the Sonoma County Eco‐Desk at (707) 565‐DESK (3375).

As we move into 2020, make a resolution to start implementing the 6 R’s. Start with picking one item and work towards incorporating more sustainable practices in your day-to-day life. From reducing your water consumption, to just saying no to single-use plastics can help make a difference! For more resources on zero waste initiatives visit and

This article was authored by Sarah Dukett, of the County of Mendocino, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Parting Wisdom: Perspective and Guidance from a Seasoned Storm Water Inspector

“The legacy you leave is the life you lead. We lead our lives daily, and we leave a legacy daily – not some grand plan, what we do each and every day, all the little decisions, because we never know what impact things will have or when you might have an impact.” -Jim Kouzes

I have been responding to spills in the City of Santa Rosa for the last 17 years. This includes responding to and abating vehicle leaks in the street, wash water from businesses, rinsate from painting equipment, concrete spatter and washout from contractors, and even blowing of leaves and yard waste into the street. All of these and anything other than rain water flowing into a storm drain inlet is prohibited by City and County Codes. Inspectors like me are tasked with going out to stop the discharge and working with the responsible person to clean-up any material (pollutant) from the street and storm drain pipe. When responding to any incident, our primary objective is to protect our valuable natural resources throughout Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. The Russian River watershed is a rich and diverse region of nearly 1,500 square miles and is home to approximately 360,000 people, 238 streams and creeks, and 63 species of fish – three of which are listed as threatened or endangered.

Creeks continue to be a valuable asset to all of our communities throughout the County. They provide habitat (food, shelter, protection) for birds, mammals (including river otters), reptiles, amphibians, fish, and insects. Good water quality supports ecosystem diversity, water quality, and public health.

An integrated Creekside trail system allows for recreation including walks, bike rides, bird watching, or just simple enjoyment of the outdoors. At the same time there are educational opportunities for students of all ages as we see an abundance of life around us. Where we live is more than sidewalks and buildings.

I personally enjoy the peace and beauty of a walk along a creek trail rather than along a busy street. Flowers, shade from trees, and the whisper of flowing water are just some of the aesthetic values of a healthy creek. Additionally, creeks provide flood protection and are an extension of our storm drain system, transporting storm water runoff away from our homes.

Healthy creeks are an important part of the ecological and social fabric of our local communities. They are part of the identity of living in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. Studies have shown that the awe‑inspiring feeling of being in and a part of nature has a healing effect on people.

Protecting our local creeks is important to those of us who respond to spills. Potential pollutants include materials such as pet waste, trash, fertilizers, pesticides, dirt, cleaning chemicals, solvents, sewage, food waste, and even excess irrigation water. A common misconception is that storm water is treated. The simple fact is, storm water flows untreated from the street, parking lot, or in some instances a backyard drain into the storm drain system and into a nearby creek.

Our hope, as pollution prevention responders, is that everyone will join us to share in protecting our local creeks and environment. The intent of our response and education efforts is to promote behavioral changes in our communities as a first line of defense to mitigate potential impacts to creeks. After all, simple actions can have immediate impacts.

At home, work, play or even in leisure, there are many daily things we can do to prevent storm water pollution. In most cases people can avoid introducing pollutants into creeks by following good basic housekeeping practices. Essentially doing what we learned as kids: Pick up after yourself and put things where they belong.

Other steps include:

  • Reporting spills to your local jurisdiction to help keep our neighborhoods clean and healthy, you can find appropriate phone numbers for spill response at;
  • Check with your local community or a creek organization on where to join a creek cleanup;
  • Go online to for pollution prevention tips for the home and for many businesses. There is also an “Urban Creek Care Guide” for tips on making your day to day activities creek-friendly:;
  • I would also encourage people to sweep the street gutter in front of your property or home several times a year especially before a forecasted rain event. This will reduce the leaves, sediment, trash and other pollutants that may be transported by rain into our local creeks.
  • Visit to find out more. Make sure to periodically stop by this developing site as it will be updated with additional information about protecting our waterways.

“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.” -Paulo Coelho

In this season of giving, give you and your family the gift of spending time by exploring our many creeks and trails this coming year.

This article was authored by recently retired City of Santa Rosa Storm Water Inspector Forest Frasieur, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

The Persistence of Plastic

Though plastic is durable, cheap, and common in everyday items, it comes at a large environmental cost.

“Micro Ocean Plastic,” by is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Plastic, a man-made petrochemical product, can take thousands of years to decompose if at all. Meanwhile, we just keep making more of it. Over time, plastics break down into smaller and smaller particles, to the point where they are virtually invisible. These tiny plastic particles are commonly referred to as “microplastics.” Other sources of microplastics are the tiny plastic fibers or “microfibers” in clothing (think of your favorite fleece jacket or yoga pants), or the microplastic beads made for some cosmetics, body wash products or even toothpaste. When washed down the drain, these plastic microfibers and microbeads are tiny enough to pass right through the wastewater treatment plants and into the river, or even if they are removed, may re-enter the environment through the sewage sludge applied to fields as fertilizer. Besides all the plastic litter that you can see, invisible microplastics are everywhere. They are now found in our soils, throughout the oceans, in the Arctic and Antarctic ice, in our once pristine mountain lakes, and are light enough to be carried by the wind high into the atmosphere to all corners of the Earth.

If that weren’t distressing enough, plastics have recently been found inside our bodies. They are in the food we eat (particularly in seafoods), the water we drink (highest levels in bottled water), and even the air we breathe (highest levels downwind from big cities). A study recently published in Environmental Science & Technology estimates that the average American consumes 74,000 to 121,000 particles of microplastic per year. Plastics are also known to act like sponges that concentrate chemicals and toxins from the environment and into our bodies. While the effects are still unknown, much more research is needed to understand the impacts of microplastics on human health.  We do know that plastic can be devastating to the countless birds, fish, and animals that ingest it or are trapped by it. Suffice it to say that plastic in all sizes and forms are rapidly accumulating and damaging the oceans and marine life, our environment, and ultimately ourselves.

So, what can we as individuals do about such an overwhelming and complex problem? Here are ten immediate actions you can take:

  • Reduce the use of single-use plastic products (cups, packages, plastic bags, plastic utensils and straws, etc.) Bring your own re-useable grocery and produce bags to the store. Bring your own silverware to the office, or travel mug to the coffee shop.
  • Stop buying bottled water. Use a re-useable water bottle.
  • Eat whole foods. Processed and ready-to-eat foods require more food packaging. Moreover, microplastic and chemicals in food packages can leach into the food itself.
  • Buy foods in bulk. This can reduce the amount of food packaging needed.
  • Make things last and buy used items. This reduces the need for new plastic packaging and saves money too.
  • Recycle properly. Be sure recyclables are clean and properly sorted.
  • Avoid all personal care products with microbeads. These products may include “polyethylene,” “polystyrene” or “polypropylene” in the list of ingredients. (The good news is many countries, including the US, have begun banning their sales.)
  • Buy natural clothing materials instead of synthetics and microfiber.
  • Use devices in the washing machine to trap microfibers. Search your internet browser for ‘washing machine lint filter’ or ‘microfiber catching laundry bag’ for more information.)
  • Pick up litter and trash. Anything washed into a storm drain will end up in the creek and eventually in the ocean. Participate in beach and river cleanups sponsored by your local organizations and agencies. Learn more about the streets to creek connection by visiting

Most importantly, stay informed on the issue of plastic pollution and help to make others aware of the problem. As consumers, think about how we support the products, manufacturers and industries that perpetuate and profit from our daily habits (which are all too often governed by convenience) – the things we eat, the things we do, and the things we buy. Support bans on single-use plastic and support organizations that address plastic pollution.  Plastic persists in our environment and is a huge global challenge that will require the actions of individuals, organizations, industries, and governments around the world working together.

This article was authored by Benjamin Kageyama, of the City of Healdsburg, Public Works Department, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.


Help Keep the Leaves and Grass Out of Storm Drains

Fall is just around the corner, and many of us will be spending our crisp Saturday afternoons trying to catch up with the week’s falling leaves and debris from our trees and landscaping that are shedding, preparing for the winter months ahead.

For the folks in urban areas with storm drains on their neighborhood streets, extra precautions should be taken in maintaining these drains. All of the water that hits these storm drains goes untreated and is sent directly into our creeks, rivers, bays, where eventually it reaches the ocean. Storm water is not sent to the local wastewater treatment facility. It is our responsibility to make sure that nothing but rain water flows from our yards into storm drains.

The rainy season will start soon, and clogged storm drains can lead to localized flooding. You can help by placing yard waste in appropriate bins that come with your local trash services. Never rake or blow leaves into the street. Blow the grass trimmings and leaves back into your yard and advise your neighbor of the same. Allowing yard waste into the street or down the storm drain can cause blockages or serious damage to the storm drain infrastructure.

Don’t miss out on helping with drainage from your property when it rains- rake up that pile of leaves in your front yard. If you choose to mow instead, set the mower to mulch or collect the grass clippings in a bagging attachment. You can also collect this yard waste and add to your garden compost, just ensure your compost bins are contained to keep the nutrient rich water from leaching into the storm system as well. For those of us who utilize a landscape maintenance company, remember that we are ultimately responsible to make certain the landscaper does not blow any leaves or yard trimmings into streets or storm drains.

Some make the argument that leaves fall naturally from the trees into the streams, but we should not be adding to this effect. Excessive decay of this large amount of organic matter can add carbon and nitrogen to our area waterbodies through its decomposition. This can create algae blooms and harm the wildlife that are living in the water.

Here are some additional do’s and don’ts that we should keep in mind in addition to our yard waste:

  • Do not dump items such as household paints and cleaners, garden pesticides and fertilizers, or used motor oils into storm drains. Not only is this illegal, it will pollute the watershed causing harm to wildlife.
  • Pick up after the dog so the rains do not wash bacteria from the waste into the storm drain.
  • Maintain your irrigation system. Adjust the sprinkler heads to ensure you are only watering your lawn and fix any leaks that may pop up.
  • Take charge for your neighborhood’s storm drain and make sure it is not clogged with branches, leaves and other debris.

Check with your local municipality and see if there is a special fall collection event for pickup of yard debris. If this service is available to you, place the yard waste curbside in bags and bundle and tie the large branches for easy pick up. If you see a clogged storm drain in your neighborhood or anything but rain going down the drain, please report it immediately. For reporting numbers in your area, head over to

Remember – “Only Rain Down the Drain.”

This article was authored by Jason Benson of the City of Ukiah, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Our Hidden Gem –Conservation Corps North Bay

September 21 – 28, 2019 is Creek Week in the Russian River Watershed! Join in with this spirit of environmental conservation and community enrichment by getting educated, invested and involved.

Creek Week is an opportunity for the community to collectively take on the task of cleaning the creeks of litter and debris,  but did you know Conservation Corps North Bay is taking on the task year-round? This unique non‑profit organization takes an amazingly well-rounded approach to protecting our community by creating opportunities for the “corpsmembers” to earn their high school diploma, along with providing a job and developing the real-life skills and discipline these individuals need to thrive.

Under the supervision of a highly qualified and capable management team, Conservation Corps North Bay (CCNB) trains its corpsmembers to offer a wide range of services which profit and enrich the community.  Their Natural Resources division provides assistance with a variety of tasks including trail construction and maintenance, flood prevention, fire fuel reduction and habitat restoration; among many other services. They also operate a Zero Waste program which benefits the community by providing:

  • Outreach and community education regarding recycling services and receptacles;
  • Storm drain labeling throughout Northern California to help prevent illegal dumping of motor oil and other harmful pollutants into our waterways;
  • Used tire and bulky item collecting, recycling, and disposing; and
  • E-waste and mattress collection events!

As of mid-July, CCNB has partnered with the Mattress Recycling Council to accept used mattresses at their Cotati location every Monday to Thursday between the hours of 7:30am to 3:30pm free of charge.  Not only do they collect e-waste free of charge, they even go to your location and haul it off for you!  Follow this link for more information on the CCNB Zero Waste program and to view their events page:

You can contribute to the health of the Russian River ecosystem by participating in creek and river cleanup events throughout the watershed.  To view Creek Week events in your area, visit’s Blog.

This article was authored by Jon Caldwell, City of Cotati, Department of Public Works, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Creek Week 2019

Do You Know the Relationship Between Low Impact Development and Water Quality?

August is the last official month of the summer, and the time to celebrate National Water Quality Month!

The 110-mile Russian River and all its tributaries move through many active communities and working lands which can affect water quality. Some of the main categories of water quality impacts can include chemicals, bacteria, sediment, and temperature. Rain water that lands on our rooftops, driveways, and streets ultimately reach our tributary creeks, river and ocean, carrying with it remnants of the long journey. These remnants, many invisible, can include:

  • Gasoline and oil from small spills or leaking automobiles
  • Bacteria and pathogens from animal and human waste
  • Sediment from loose soil
  • Metals from pesticides, fungicides, cars, and building materials

The good news is that there are strategies to help keep our local waters clean! One strategy is to offset the hard surfaces (such as roofs, gutters, and roads) that increase runoff by installing low impact development (LID) features. This strategy is being deployed throughout the Russian River watershed, and is required for many new development projects.

What is a LID? LID is a planning and design strategy used to reduce potentially harmful impacts on water associated with increased stormwater runoff from construction. LID uses an innovative technique to imitate how water would flow prior to the constructed development. This approach is based on infiltrating, filtering, storing, and sometimes evaporating stormwater runoff before it enters our rivers and creeks. When stormwater enters a LID, it begins to infiltrate or seep through rocks and vegetation. As it infiltrates the ground, it is filtered through layers of rocks, soil, and bacteria which reduce many pollutants in the stormwater. The excess clean water either infiltrates into the ground or is carried out through our storm drains to the creeks.

These LID design strategies come in all shapes and sizes, whether it be living rooftops or vegetated swales. Look around as you take a stroll around downtown or new buildings and you may start to notice all the LID in your area. Some LID benefits include:

  • Reducing the flow of water that can cause erosion or flooding
  • Recharging our groundwater basin
  • Decreasing the impacts of new developments on local hydrology
  • Preventing trash and debris from flowing down the storm drains
  • Treating pollutants and protecting water quality

While our cities, counties, architects and contractors work to decrease stormwater pollution, there is still much that residents can do!

Check out our website for more information on low impact development and ways you can help keep stormwater runoff clean.

A homeowner’s and landowner’s Guide to Beneficial Stormwater Management Slow it. Spread it. Sink it. Store it! is available at

This article was authored by Christina Leung, of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Water Conservation, Car Washes, and Water Waste

Summer is upon us! We have completed our spring cleanup around the yard, made sure no standing water is present on our properties attracting mosquitos and setup our outdoor furniture. Summer also marks an important time of the year for water conservation. By using water wisely in the summer, it helps preserve our healthy watershed for the remainder of the year. Even though we received a lot of rainfall this winter, it is important to minimize water waste throughout our community.

Here are some ways in which you can reduce your summer water use:

  • Manually Check Irrigation System and Repair Leaks: By manually running through each irrigation station, you can accurately assess your system and make sure no water is being wasted. Fix any leaks that appear and prevent runoff.
  • Know When to Water: Make sure your irrigation system is running at night or in the early morning to avoid increased evaporation and wind interference.
  • Rethink the Watershed on Your Property: Redirect downspouts toward vegetated landscape or install rain chains to direct water to a catchment system. These simple measures will send rainwater where it can be used by plants or absorbed into the ground instead of to storm drains.
  • Plant Natives: Plant drought-tolerant, low water use plants. Natives are recommended since they are adapted to our climate and will demand less resources.
  • Add Mulch: Make sure to add mulch around plants to help insulate the soil, to provide a buffer from heat, help retain water, and prevents weeds that would otherwise compete for resources.
  • Convert your lawn: Lawn uses a majority of outdoor irrigation because of spray irrigation inefficiencies. Remove lawn, plant natives, and install drip irrigation.
  • Rebate Programs: Local water utilities offer rebates to help customers conserve water. Check your local water utilities website to see which rebates are available.
  • Rethink your summer car washing: Automatic car washes are required by law to properly dispose of their water waste. Everything that’s been stuck to your car—gasoline, oil, heavy metal particles, tar, and particulate matter from exhaust fumes—has the potential to flow from your wash area to the nearest storm drain and eventually reach the Russian River. Most commercial car wash facilities will filter rinse water and direct it to a sanitary sewer where it will get treated and possibly reused (recycled water).

For online information about water conservation, green car wash facilities in Sonoma County or to report water waste, go to the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership website at:

This article was authored by Chad Singleton, of Sonoma Water, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.