Sonoma County Wildfires Response
The Water Agency is working in collaboration with organizations throughout Sonoma County to protect our watersheds and water supply from adverse impacts due to the October 2017 wildfires. Water Agency staff are assisting in the regional effort to identify potential risks the fires have posed to our watersheds, and are taking actions to monitor and mitigate those risks.
Water Quality Monitoring and Erosion Control
The Water Agency is working to ensure that Sonoma County residents continue to have a clean, reliable supply of drinking water. Fortunately, the fires minimally impacted the parts of the Russian River watershed which supply drinking water for the Water Agency. Water Agency staff are working with a collaborative group of government agencies including the County of Sonoma, Resource Conservation Districts, and the City of Santa Rosa, and non-profits including the Sonoma Ecology Center to install wattles, sandbags, and other erosion control methods. Erosion control techniques prevent sediment and debris from entering waterways and storm drains.
Please click here for information about erosion control.
To continually protect our water supply and monitor the effects of the fire on the environment, the Water Agency has partnered with the North Coast Regional Water Control Board, United States Geological Survey, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to perform extensive water quality monitoring in waterways in and around burn areas.
Risk of Flash Floods, Mudflows, and Debris Flows
Wildfires dramatically increase the risk of flash floods, mudflows, and debris flows by eliminating vegetation and other obstacles which slow runoff and promote infiltration of rainwater into the ground and altering the soil to repel water. These threats can be unpredictable, move quickly, and can carry boulders, trees, mud and debris at high speeds. The National Weather Service’s (NWS) general rule of thumb is that half an inch of rain in an hour can cause flash flooding in areas affected by fires.
In preparation for anticipated rains, the Water Agency has partnered with the National Weather Service to monitor potential flood threats. The Early Warning Forecast and Response System will provide information to the National Weather Service, enhancing their ability to send out local advisories, alerts, and warnings to areas where fires have increased the risk of flash flooding, debris flows, and landslides.
This program will include the following:
- Installation of additional stream and rainfall gauges that will detect conditions which may lead to flash floods, mud slides, or debris flows.
- Installation of an X-band radar unit that will provide accurate, localized detection of weather patterns to help predict when storm events may cause flash flooding, mud slides and debris flows. This radar unit is being installed as part of the AQPI project (learn more here).
Click here for more information on hazard risk and mitigation.
Outreach and Communication
The Water Agency is committed to continuing to provide updated information about watershed fire recovery to the public. In order to inform the public about the severity of potential hazards resulting from impacts of fires and the coming rainy season, the Water Agency is part of a group of agencies implementing a comprehensive outreach plan, including the following:
- Cautionary road signs placed at the entry of areas at high risk for mudslides, flash floods, and debris flows.
- Postcard mailings to medium and high risk neighborhoods with information about potential hazard risks, risk mitigation, warning systems, and how to find more information.
- Paid advertisements updating the community about the threat and severity of ongoing hazards.
If you have any questions regarding ongoing communication, feel free to Contact Us and let us know.
Official Emergency Operations Center websites
Interactive map of debris removal progress