Rio Dell Declares Drought Emergency

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State Sen. Mike McGuire, Rio Dell council members Frank Wilson and Debra Garnees Drought Resiliency Project Briefing in 2015. - SUBMITTED
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  • State Sen. Mike McGuire, Rio Dell council members Frank Wilson and Debra Garnees Drought Resiliency Project Briefing in 2015.
The Rio Dell City Council has declared a drought emergency, calling for a series of voluntary reductions in water use and activating its groundwater well site to diversify the water supply, reduce water intake and ease pressure on the Eel River, where the majority of the city's water comes from.

“We didn’t have this option back in 2014,” Mayor Pro‐Tem Gordon Johnson said, referring to the city’s emergency well system that came online in 2018 after the last drought left Rio Dell with few options. “This is a tremendous relief for our citizens, for the environment and it shows we have been working hard to fix the threats posed to our system.”

On May 10, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in 41 counties including Humboldt, and soon after the Humboldt County Board of Supervisor heard a series of dire warnings about what this year's drought emergency will look like locally, prompting them to form a three-person task force to bring back recommendations to the board. The supervisors also directed staff to explore the creation of climate change position and immediately begin a public messaging campaign urging residents to conserve water and engage in fire-safe practices.

"The weather is changing," Craig Tucker, a natural resources consultant for the Karuk Tribe, said during the May 25 supervisors' meeting, explaining that nine of California's 11 hottest years on record and three of its driest have occurred since 2011. "What we're living here is not really a drought but a new normal driven by climate change."

The historic drought conditions have also begun to impact the Klamath River, as scores of young salmon have washed up dead due to a disease brought on by poor water conditions.

Rio Dell’s Superintendent of Wastewater Operations Derek Taylor described the city's system as "technologically advanced and environmentally friendly," noting that "much of what we take out in well water is returned to the basin.”

“The river does so much for us, now is the time to help the river by conserving this resource,” Taylor said in a news release.

Read the full Rio Dell press release below.


Drought Emergency Declared by City of Rio Dell

At a special meeting held on Tuesday, June 22nd the Rio Dell City Council voted to declare a drought emergency. The declaration calls for a series of voluntary reductions in water use in order to ease pressure on the waters of the Eel River. The Council also directed that the City’s alternative groundwater well site be activated to diversify the water supply and reduce surface water intake from the river.

“We didn’t have this option back in 2014.” Stated Mayor Pro‐Tem Gordon Johnson, referring to the City’s emergency well system that came online in 2018 after the last drought left the community with few options. “This is a tremendous relief for our citizens, for the environment and it shows we have been working hard to fix the threats posed to our system.”

Johnson went on to thank the State Water Resources Control Board and Senator Mike McGuire for stepping in with financial assistance to help cover the $1.8 million water source diversification project.

The City’s wastewater system also recycles treated water back to the groundwater aquifer the wells are located in. 1/8 of a mile downstream of the well system sits a 14 acre irrigation field where this water is allowed to replenish the groundwater basin, resulting in the lowest environmental impact possible.

Rio Dell’s Superintendent of Wastewater Operations, Derek Taylor stated, “This is a technologically advanced and environmentally friendly system, one of the best on the Eel River Watershed. Much of what we take out in well water is returned to the basin.”

Taylor concluded by saying, “The river does so much for us, now is the time to help the river by conserving this resource.”

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