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St. Helena needs more rain by April 15 to avoid drought restrictions

St. Helena needs more rain by April 15 to avoid drought restrictions


City officials are warning of possible water use restrictions if St. Helena doesn’t receive a few more inches of rain by April 15.

The city’s own rain gauge has registered 15.57 inches of rain in the current rainfall year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. That’s well below the 22-25.9 inches that the city considers a “dry year,” according to a staff report from Public Works Director Erica Ahmann Smithies.

The City Council hasn’t imposed any water restrictions yet, and there’s still hope. In 2018 St. Helena only had 12 inches of rain by this date, but heavy rains arrived to fill Bell Canyon Reservoir.

As of Monday, Bell Canyon was at 68.8% of full capacity.

The rain needs to fall by April 15. After that date, the city can’t divert any additional water into Bell Canyon, which is one of St. Helena’s three sources along with the Stonebridge wells and water purchased from the city of Napa.

Without significant rainfall in the next few weeks, the city will enter a “critically dry year scenario” and might have to impose drought restrictions.

“It’s a monitoring situation right now,” Smithies told the council on Tuesday.

Most of the conservation measures imposed during a Phase I water emergency are recommended but not mandatory, except for prohibitions on filling pools and surface cleaning using potable water.

The more severe Phase II and Phase III water emergencies would impose mandatory conservation measures and water rationing.

You can reach Jesse Duarte at 967-6803 or

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