The Upper Russian River Voluntary Water Sharing Program is a locally driven approach for addressing water shortages. The first of its kind, the Program protects supplies and enables individuals enrolled in the program who still have water under their water rights to share with other participants who do not, effectively serving as an alternative to curtailments, which are a blanket restriction on water diversions for those with younger rights when there is insufficient water supply.
The 2022 Program was suspended in mid August due to insufficient water supply to maintain any sharing. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order to Pacific Gas and Electric Company on July 27, 2022, approving a variance that substantially reduced flows from the Eel River through Potter Valley Project to the Russian River Watershed. Consistent with the analyses described in Exhibit B to the Program, there was insufficient supply available for sharing within the range of minimum and maximum forbearance thresholds identified by the Program. It was determined that continued diversions under the Program threaten to adversely affect the availability of water for non-participants. Exceptions to curtailment under the Program were temporarily suspended and curtailments enacted as identified on the Curtailment Status List posted on the Russian River Drought Response webpage. The State Water Resources Control Board continued to monitor conditions and assess whether curtailment exceptions for Program participants could resume, however, diversions from the Eel River to the Russian River did not increase. Later in the year, demand dropped and additional supply from precipitation events allowed the State Water Resources Control Board to suspend curtailments.
The Upper Russian River Water Sharing Program has concluded for 2022. The first annual implementation report will be available soon and improvements are being made for a 2023 operational year, if needed.
Program Website, hosted by the State Water Board:http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/drought/russian_river/voluntary_program.html
CNN covers the Voluntary Water Sharing Program in this article:https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/10/us/west-water-crisis-property-rights-climate/index.html
Additional Press on the Water Sharing Program:2022, 6-7 Maven's Notebook article on Water Sharing Program.pdf2022, 6-7 Press Dem, Water Sharing Deal may get nod.pdf2022, 6-8 Pres Dem- Historic water sharing deal OK.pdf