Sonoma County Water Agency Receives 2022 Excellence in Innovation Award

  • by ACWA Staff
  • May 5, 2022
  • News Releases

SACRAMENTO – The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) today presented the first annual Excellence in Innovation Award to Sonoma County Water Agency for its Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO).

FIRO is a new reservoir-operations strategy that better informs decisions to retain or release water behind dams. It integrates additional flexibility in policies and rules through enhanced monitoring and improved weather and water forecasts. Sonoma County Water Agency engaged with the concept of FIRO with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institute of Oceanography after storms in 2012 resulted in the USACE releasing water from the reservoir as it encroached into Lake Mendocino’s flood pool. The severe 2012-2015 drought immediately followed, which resulted in serious reductions of water storage and river flows.

After more than six years of extensive technical and modeling analysis and annual testing, demonstrations of FIRO proved successful during the course of two very different water years — Water Year 2019 was relatively wet and Water Year 2020 was very dry. In both years, FIRO increased water supply benefits and managed flood risks. In Water Year 2020, FIRO enabled a 19 percent increase in water storage, totaling more than 11,000 acre-feet by the end of winter.

“Projects like these are so important in addressing climate change impacts, including more severe and prolonged droughts,” said ACWA President Pamela Tobin. “The successful and collaborative work done on Lake Mendocino, utilizing science, technology and advances in forecasting, is groundbreaking and serves as a model that can be tested at reservoirs throughout California.”

ACWA’s Excellence in Innovation Award is a new annual award program that recognizes outstanding innovations by public water agencies. The award, sponsored by CDM Smith, was presented during ACWA’s 2022 Spring Conference & Exhibition in Sacramento, where approximately 1,300 leaders from local water agencies in California gathered for programs and panel discussions on a variety of key water issues.

The other finalists for this year’s award were:

  • Eastern Municipal Water District’s Closed Circuit Reverse Osmosis System: Utilizing technology to remove salts while producing a high recovery rate in treatment of recycled water.
  • Rainbow Municipal Water District’s Rapid Aerial Water Supply: To mitigate the response time for water drops and to provide a constant source of water for aerial firefighting.
  • San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District’s Plunge Creek Conservation Project: Restoring the natural 208-acre habitat of the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat while enhancing groundwater recharge.

For more information about ACWA’s awards programs, please visit www.acwa.com/about/awards.

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