Fort Bragg upgrades its water emergency to Stage 4 as Noyo River at virtual standstill

The Mendocino Voice

ontinuing low flows in the Noyo River have prompted the city of Fort Bragg to once again upgrade its drought emergency level.

On Monday, the Fort Bragg City Council unanimously approved upgrading the emergency from a Stage 3 to a Stage 4 water crisis, which will require residents and businesses to conserve an additional 10% of water, bringing their total reduction in water use to about 30% to 40% of a normal year. Some new rules, like a ban on watering your lawn or washing your car outside of a commercial facility, will also go into effect. Fort Bragg City Manager Tabatha Miller told the council that the city has already been doing a great job with conservation efforts and residents have collectively reduced water use this year by a third compared to 2019, the last time when no conservation efforts were in place. Water use in the city dropped from around 700,000 gallons per day in June to 565,000 gallons per day as of mid-September.

The decision to upgrade the water emergency is in anticipation of worsening drought conditions on the Noyo River, which has historically supplied an increasing share of the city’s water as its other two sources, Waterfall and Newman gulches, experience declines in water availability by the end of summer. Waterfall Gulch is currently supplying 118,000 gallons per day and Newman Gulch is supplying 170,000, but that’s expected to drop by 10% going into October. “The next two months are really critical,” Miller said. This year, the Noyo is experiencing such low stream flows that some days it appears to be at a virtual standstill. Usually this time of year, the river flows at a speed of about 5 cubic feet per second, but for the past month that number has been well below 1 and a lot closer to 0 on most days. “We are at the lowest level we have been,” Miller said.

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