Some Sonoma Co. residents asked to save water for salmon

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - The ongoing drought is having a devastating impact on endangered Central Coast Coho Salmon. So much so that wildlife officials are asking thousands in Sonoma County to voluntarily cut back their water use.

Cold, running water is critical to the life-cycle of salmon.

"Salmon are these amazing species," said Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "So if a salmon egg was laid and fertilized right here, under this very rock, that salmon will come back three years later and spawn under this very same rock. We don't really know why they do it. It's just this miracle of nature."

Wildlife officials monitoring the salmon said Mill Creek is roughly 30 percent lower than it should be this time of year, and the situation is expected to get worse by summer and fall. If there's not enough water flowing in the creeks and streams, the salmon won't be able to swim back upstream and complete the life cycle.

"The 2015 drought could wipe out the Coho run for this year - completely and every single one of them," said Hughan. "It's dire straits for these little fish."

The Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies will soon be asking more than 1,500 land owners -- including residents, farmers and wineries – along four tributaries of the Russian River to voluntarily cut back water use. The four waterways are Green Valley, Dutch Bill, Mill Creek and Mark West Creek.

"What we're doing is we're asking people who live along these waterways to use a tiny bit less. One gallon. Five gallons. Ten gallons. Because every drop counts," said Hughan.

The Ehrlich family in Healdsburg said they're happy to do their part.

"The thought of that happening -- it's crazy it's come to that point. But with the drought and everybody using water for the vineyards, it's just sucking it dry," said Mike Ehrlich, who lives along Mill Creek.

"It's a historic and irreplaceable part of the ecosystem and we can't just let them die," said Hughan.