Water! Water! State Lifts 50 Gallon Per Person Per Day Restriction on Rio Dell Residents, Others Not so Lucky

Rio Dell resident Bob Vogel waters his flowers using donated spring water. Vogel’s flowers are a town favorite. [Photos provided by the city of Rio Dell]

The State Water Resources Control Board lifted its 50 gallons of water per person per day restriction on Rio Dell residents. However, those previously affected on the remainder of the main stem of the Eel River, the North Fork Eel River, or the Van Duzen River aren’t so lucky.

City of Rio Dell Press Release:

One month after issuing a notice that the City of Rio Dell no longer has legal rights to draw water out of the Eel River, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has issued a rescission of its June 30, 2014 curtailment notice. The curtailment notice resulted in an unprecedented 50 gallons of water per person, per day ceiling the City of Rio Dell was asked to achieve. This reduction translated into a 50% reduction in water use city-wide. The city and its rate-payers faced State imposed fines for failure to achieve the conservation objective.

Residents of Rio Dell answered the call to conserve water, reducing water use by 56% towards the end of July. Friends of the city donated truckloads of water to keep city landscaping alive, residents with well systems donated water to their neighbors, and local businesses stepped in voluntarily to reduce water use. 

The State’s rescission of the curtailment letter [see below] now lifts the 50 gallon per person per day limitation on the city’s residents. The city remains at emergency drought level 3, which continues to prohibit the outdoor use of water, and the Governor continues to call for reduced outdoor water use statewide. The City Council may reconsider its position on the city’s drought stage at its regularly scheduled meeting this Tuesday August 5, 2014 at 6:30pm. River gauges adjacent to the city show a river flow of 45 cubic feet per second, one of the lowest river flows for this time of year since 1977. 

“While we are pleased that the State has reassessed its position, we remain very concerned about river flows.” Stated Kyle Knopp, City Manager for the City of Rio Dell. The city’s only source of water comes directly from the river. “A drought of this magnitude has not been seen in a generation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if next month we receive a new curtailment order as conditions worsen. For now though,everyone should be mindful of how we use water, but nobody needs to be counting gallons.

Public Works staffer Austin Evans uses recycled grey-water from City Hall to keep the flowers alive.

State Water Resources Control Board letter to the City of Rio Dell:


On June 30, 2014, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) issued a curtailment notice to post-1914 water right holders on the North Fork and Main Stem Eel River and the Van Duzen River. The curtailment notice was based on the projected water supply and reported diversion demands for senior and junior water right holders. At that time, the water supply was insufficient to service all senior water right holders. 

State Water Board staff has continuously monitored flow conditions in the Eel River watershed, and, based on new information, has determined that there is sufficient water available downstream of the confluence of the South Fork and Main Stem Eel River to justify allowing 22 appropriative water rights holders, of which you are one, to commence diversions under post-1914 water rights. This determination is based on July 14th and 16th, 2014 recalibrations of the stream gages at Scotia and Fort Seward by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) which are used to monitor and project water supply. State Water Board staff has monitored the adjusted gages for two weeks to ensure consistency prior to releasing parties from curtailment. 

Given these adjustments to water supply, State Water Board staff finds that additional water is available to certain post-1914 water rights in the Eel River near the Scotia gauge. Due to the downstream location of the Scotia gauge and supply of water still entering from the South Fork, only those post-1914 water rights downstream of the South Fork and Main Stem Eel River confluence are being released from curtailment. 

State Water Board staff also checked this decision to partially lift curtailments with results from a flow model being developed by the University of California, Davis. Results from the Davis model support lifting the curtailments for the post-1914 water rights below the confluence of the South Fork and Main Stem Eel River, but not for the remainder of the Main Stem Eel River, North Fork Eel River, or Van Duzen River.  

To Water Right Users in the Main Stem Eel River, The Division of Water Rights will continue to actively monitor the conditions for the remainder of the Main Stem and North Fork Eel River as well as the Van Duzen tributary, and should conditions change, we will notify the affected parties. If you have any questions or concerns, you may contact John O’Hagan at (916) 341-5368. 


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