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A dry winter and early warm temperatures have prompted the Sonoma County Water Agency to start an annual process drawing water from the Russian River weeks earlier than normal.

Crews from the agency, also known as Sonoma Water, inflated a rubber dam Monday near Forestville that is used to create a small pool from which the agency draws water for use in four off-stream infiltration ponds.

These ponds help recharge groundwater, which is naturally filtered through sand and gravel and delivered to Sonoma Water’s customers, officials said in a news release.

The dam, located downstream of the Wohler Bridge, typically doesn’t get inflated until spring or early summer.

Public notices will be posted around the rubber dam warning the public not to recreate on or near the dam. California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations prohibit fishing within 250 feet of the upstream and downstream sides of the rubber dam.

With a third year of drought conditions and water demands increasing, Sonoma Water asks residents to use water efficiently. Additional water conservation tips are available at the Sonoma Marin Water Saving Partnership website.