Streamflow Stewardship Program

As the name suggests, “streamflow” describes the flow of water through streams, creeks, rivers and other channels on its way to a larger body of water (in our case, San Pablo Bay). Good streamflow is essential for healthy ecosystems and for a dependable supply of fresh water for human use.

That’s why Sonoma Ecology Center has teamed up with Trout Unlimited in launching our Streamflow Stewardship Program. This program is designed to monitor streamflow in Sonoma Valley and to create a plan with local landowners for enhancing streamflows in the upper Sonoma Creek Watershed, which will support steelhead and other wildlife while improving our own water supply.

Helping Fish and People Thrive

Across much of California’s North and Central Coast, lack of streamflow is the single largest factor holding back the recovery of salmon and steelhead. The region’s climate is dominated by a wet season and a dry season, with 90 percent of the rain falling between November and April. Over thousands of years, salmon and steelhead have adapted to thrive in this environment where summer streamflows dwindle.

More recently, however, water use for homes, businesses and farms has depleted flows to levels that threaten salmonid survival. And human residents are also experiencing decreased water security and drought resilience.

The Sonoma Creek Streamflow Stewardship Program is based on two simple assumptions: 1) there is ample water for both humans and fish, the problem is timing; and 2) the same solutions will help both fish and people.

The program begins, in May 2017, with a strategic science-based approach to streamflow monitoring, and is scheduled to conclude in two years with a community-developed streamflow plan designed to enhance flows in upper Sonoma Creek.

More specifically, the program starts by collecting data on streamflows, fisheries, land and water use, and hydrologic conditions, then it uses that data to identify areas where streamflows can be increased. We’ll reach out to landowners in those areas and develop relationships with them, learning about their needs and identifying project opportunities.

At that point, in concert with the landowners, Sonoma Ecology Center and its partners will be able to design, fund, and construct voluntary projects that improve streamflows and water security for fish and people. These projects are low-impact, free to the landowner, and will make our streams and creeks stronger.

How to Get Involved

Please let us know if you are a landlord interested in talking about a potential project on your property. Our expertise will help you get ahead of groundwater regulations and better understand your water rights and responsibilities. Landlords may contact Melissa Roberts, Sonoma Ecology Center watershed science technician, at 707-996-0712, ext. 123, or at melissa@sonomaecologycenter.org.

The Sonoma Creek Streamflow Stewardship Program is funded in part by the California Wildlife Conservation Board.

The Sonoma Ecology Center has more than a quarter-century of experience in environmental monitoring and restoration in the Sonoma Creek Watershed, which is home to both steelhead and Chinook salmon. Our many successful projects include “seepage run monitoring,” which calculates stream reach gains and losses, and the Sonoma Creek Watershed Limiting Factors Analysis.

Trout Unlimited is a national organization with a 57-year history of ensuring that wild and native trout populations, as well as local anglers, can thrive — including many victories here in Sonoma County. For more visit www.tu.org.