Over the course of just one month we’re observing intensifying conditions in our creeks.

As we enter the month of September we’re feeling that familiar warm weather typical of late summer in the San Francisco Bay Area. These hot end of season days are making their presence visible in our local waterways which are drying up at an even faster rate now than in mid-August at the time of SEC Senior Scientist and Research Program Manager, Steven Lee’s reporting in his Kenwood Press article last week.

 Before/after photos at Maxwell, mid-August to early September  August vs. September at Sonoma Creek Near Maxwell Park where what remaining water has dried up almost completely.

Steve has observed dramatic changes in water levels and creek flow over the last month – and it’s looking dry out there. In mid-August Sonoma Creek had dried to isolated pools lower in the watershed, but at least trickling flow had extended as far downstream as the Agua Caliente bridge. Now by the beginning of September, those lower watershed pools have continued to recede and dry stretches were found all the way up through and above Glen Ellen. This can be seen in the photos below.

It’s not all bad news though, with some positive developments providing new life to our watershed there is reason for both action and hope. Until very recently Asbury Creek, a tributary of Sonoma Creek, would have been dry this time of year, but today it’s one of the few creeks that is running perennially. This is entirely thanks to Roulette Spring, located on the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) property, which is pumping out 18-44 gallons per minute flow year-round into Asbury Creek for the first time is now providing the area with perennial flow through the summer that is deep enough to provide cold water refuge habitat for steelhead.

Another view of Sonoma Creek at Maxwell comparing water levels in mid August to early September 

Beavers are also making their mark in Sonoma Creek, with their dams visible right from the Sonoma Ecology Center parking lot. Beaver activity in Sonoma Creek has provided some shallow pools that are sustaining freshwater shrimp populations and keeping water in areas that would otherwise be dry right now. The situation with our drought affected watershed is no doubt dire, but there are places to find joy while we work towards sustainable solutions going forward.

A beaver dam on Sonoma Creek near the SEC office where water is being retained and providing valuable habitat that sustains fresh water shrimp populations. 

Want to get involved? Action big and small can bring aid to our drought affected waterways. Since Steven Lee’s article came out in the Kenwood Press many Sonoma Valley residents have reached out about finding solutions to helping support our watershed – you can join us too in supporting our creeks. Steve himself is available to support learning about stewardship oriented approaches and planning to shift dry season diversions of water from Sonoma Creek. Email him at steve@sonomaecologycenter.org.