(KRON) — The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to end the local drought emergency it declared two years ago.

Wet winter storms dropped nearly three feet of rain on Santa Rosa. Two main reservoirs that supply Sonoma County exceeded their normal storage capacity for the first time since 2019.

Combined, Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino held 372,000 acre-feet of water when winter ended March 20, the most ever going into the dry season. An acre-foot is equal to approximately 326,000 gallons, or enough to meet the annual indoor and outdoor needs of three average households in Sonoma County. Santa Rosa’s primary source of water is from the Russian River.

Even after lifting the local emergency, county leaders are still strongly encouraging the public to continue conserving water. This is because California’s weather patterns are becoming increasingly volatile as a result of climate change.

“We’ve made it through the driest three-year period ever recorded in California,” said Supervisor Chris Coursey, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “But this is no time to go back to old habits. We don’t know when the next drought will arrive. If everyone does their part to conserve now, we will have more water available in the future for the entire community to share.”

A footprint is seen in dry cracked earth that used to be the bottom of Lake Mendocino on April 22, 2021. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Board of Supervisors declared a local drought emergency on April 27, 2021. In response to appeals for conservation, local residents and businesses reduced water use by 17 percent in Sonoma and Marin counties in 2021 and 2022, compared to 2020 levels, saving 9.2 billion gallons of water over the two-year period.

Local conservation efforts exceeded the statewide 15 percent reduction target set by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021. Local residents and businesses replaced 1 million square feet of grass with low-water use landscaping, added 95,000 gallons of rainwater harvesting capacity and replaced 1,200 toilets with high-efficiency models utilizing incentive programs promoted by the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership.

UKIAH, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 22: A boat dock sits on dry ground far from the water at Lake Mendocino on April 22, 2021 as a severe drought takes hold in California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Other drought response measures included:

  • Sonoma Water collaborated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase the storage capacity of Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino over winter. The initiative, known as Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations, reduced water releases from the two reservoirs by using advanced weather forecasts to predict the timing and intensity of winter storms. As a result, the region is heading into summer with an additional 30,000 acre-feet of water in storage – enough to supply around 90,000 households for a year.
  • The Board of Supervisors allocated $400,000 to revive three dormant wells on the Santa Rosa Plain. Sonoma Water activated the first well in October 2021, producing up to 1.6 million gallons per day and providing an alternative source for residents and ranchers in areas experiencing severe water shortages. The water agency won a $6.9 million state grant to activate the two remaining wells and retrofit all three wells to pump water back into the aquifer during wet years, creating new storage underground for future droughts.
  • The Board of Supervisors, which also serves as the Board of Directors for Sonoma Water, authorized $1.1 million to create a drought response and flood control plan in July 2022. The initiative, led by the water agency and the Department of Emergency Management, is developing a comprehensive plan to respond to extreme weather events in the future.
A flooded road is seen from above in Sebastopol on January 5, 2023.(Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

“Another drought is inevitable. The only question is when it will occur,” said Jeff DuVall, interim director of the county Department of Emergency Management. “That is why the Interagency Drought Taskforce will continue its work planning for the future and advocating for solutions that will strengthen the county’s ability to survive the next drought.”