Emergency water supplies are flowing, or more accurately rolling, out to thirsty residents along the Mendocino Coast, after officials approved a stop-gap measure.
The first trucks hauling an estimated 5 million gallons of water a month left Ukiah Wednesday, delivering drinking water to the Mendocino coast, the area hardest hit by the now two-year-old drought. Though the first shipment was groundwater, an exemption issued by state regulators, will enable Ukiah to pull water from the Russian River for supplies in the weeks and months ahead. The right to do that was suspended earlier as Lake Mendocino dwindled.
Erik Ekdahl is with the division of water rights at the state water resources control board. He said the board's action, was urgent.
"When you have multiple years of drought, like we've had, it puts a lot of pressure on some of these small water systems that may not have storage, they may not have multiple sources of water and are really kind of contingent on the one source of drinking water that they have."
Ukiah itself has been delivering groundwater to residents due to the drought. The city also receives recycled water and in normal times, diverts from the Russian River. Now the river water will be going to Ft. Bragg, which is distributing it to other communities. Ekdahl said they'll receive just enough.
"It's really enough to kind of supplement what supplies they are able to generate locally, and if does come to the point where they truly run out, they have a pathway and an opportunity to fully supply those communities if need be."
That's because with the exemption already in place, the board will face less red tape if they need to pivot. As to how long the water trucks will ply highway 20?
"It's really contingent on the weather at this point."