Watershed Overview

The Alexander Valley watershed drains approximately 122 square miles of land. It includes the mainstem of the Russian River from its confluence with Cummiskey Creek (approximately 1 mile north of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line) at the northern end of the Valley to its confluence with Maacama Creek (due east of the City of Healdsburg) at the Valley’s southern end. A number of tributaries drain the hills and empty into the Russian River, the largest of which include Crocker, Gill, Gird, Miller and Sausal on the east side of the Valley, and Oat Valley, Cloverdale, Icaria, and Lytton creeks on the West side.

Land Use

Alexander Valley includes the City of Cloverdale and the unincorporated areas of Jimtown, Geyserville and Asti. The watershed is almost 100% privately owned, with major land uses including vineyard, rural residential, urban, recreation, and gravel mining. Historic land uses include farming of hops and prunes, which dominated the Valley’s agriculture in the late 19th and early 20th century.


Vegetation, outside of agriculture, consists mainly of hardwood and herbaceous cover, with small amounts of shrub land and coniferous forest mainly in the northwest portion of the watershed. Riparian areas along the mainstem of the Russian River as it runs through Alexander Valley tend to be sparsely vegetated and dominated by willows, due to the dynamic and gravelly nature of the riparian corridor.

Fish and Wildlife

The mainstem of the Russian River provides migration habitat for endangered coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and threatened steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), as well as spawning and rearing habitat for threatened Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Some Alexander Valley tributaries provide spawning and rearing habitat for steelhead trout.

Current and Past RCD Programs


The RCD has worked with many agricultural producers in Alexander Valley to enhance their farming operations and protect soil and water resources. Projects include the development of LandSmart Plans, enhancement of riparian areas, and erosion control.

Water Resources

  • As one of our district’s major winegrowing areas, and as an area where water conservation has been deemed a high priority, Alexander Valley is one of the focal areas of our Vineyard Irrigation Evaluation program. This service is currently available on a fee for service basis.
  • The RCD has also worked with the Russian River Property Owners Association to develop an ongoing landowner-driven monitoring program to assess spring and summer streamflows in the mainstem of the Russian River in Alexander Valley.
  • The RCD is very involved in a statewide groundwater monitoring effort called the California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring (CASGEM) program. This program was created by SBx7 6 and established for the first time a statewide program to collect groundwater elevations, facilitate collaboration between local monitoring entities and the Department of Water Resources, and to report this information to the public. The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) and the County Permit Resource Management Department have assumed responsibility for collecting these data in the basins throughout Sonoma County. The RCD was hired in 2011 by the Water Agency to conduct outreach to gain landowner participation in the CASGEM program and then to collect groundwater elevation data for these various wells covering the Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and the Lower Russian River basins. Groundwater data are collected on local landowner wells twice a year in the various basins and reported back to the Sonoma County Water Agency and the Department of Water Resources.

On-the-Ground Projects

  • The RCD will be finishing its final year of the Arundo donax removal program. The remaining 150 acres of property bordering the Russian River will be sprayed and monitored. Implementation was made possible by the Department of Water Resources Proposition 84 Integrated Regional Water Management program. Arundo donax is a fast-growing, non-native bamboo like grass that invades riparian areas and displaces native vegetation in the Russian River Watershed. This large weed absorbs soil moisture, shades out native plants, presents a significant fire hazard, and threatens the viability of numerous fish and wildlife species. The RCD has treated over 1200 infested acres of Arundo in Alexander Valley and has replanted many of these treated areas with native riparian plants and trees. (Click here for Informational Brochure).
  • The RCD continues to implement projects identified through outreach and stream assessments in the “Habitat Restoration and Conservation Plan for Anadromous Salmonid Habitat in Selected Tributaries of the Russian River Basin” in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Knights Valley.


Agricultural and Environmental Education

FARMS Leadership Program field days are held on private agricultural properties within the watershed.

Links to Partner Programs in the Watershed

Alexander Valley Association: ava.com
Alexander Valley Winegrowers: alexandervalley.org
Clean Water Coalition of Northern Sonoma County: cwcnorthernsonoma.org
Russian River Property Owners Association: russianriverpoa.org
Russian Riverkeeper: russianriverkeeper.org
Geyserville Chamber of Commerce: geyservillecc.com
Western United Dairymen: westernuniteddairymen.com
Open Space Water Resource Protection Land Use (O.W.L. Foundation): owlfoundation.net
Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians: drycreekrancheria.com
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service: nmfs.noaa.gov
Natural Resources Conservation Service: nrcs.usda.gov
Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program: partners.fws.gov
United States Army Corps of Engineers: usace.army.mil
United States Department of Agriculture: sc.egov.usda.gov
United States Environmental Protection Agency: epa.gov
United States Fish & Wildlife Service: fws.gov
California Coastal Conservancy: coastalconservancy.ca.gov
California Department of Fish and Wildlife: dfg.ca.gov
California Regional Water Quality Control Boards, North Coast Region: swrcb.ca.gov/rwqcb
California State Water Resources Control Board: swrcb.ca.gov
University of California Cooperative Extension: cesonoma.ucdavis.edu
Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District: sonomaopenspace.org
Sonoma County Department of Transportation and Public Works: sonomacountypublicworks.com
Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department: sonoma-county.org/prmd
Sonoma County Public Health Division: sonoma-county.org/health/ph
Sonoma County Regional Parks Department: sonoma-county.org/parks
Sonoma County Water Agency: scwa.ca.gov
Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner: sonoma-county.org/agcomm
Sonoma County Farm Bureau: sonomacountyfarmbureau.com
Sonoma County Farm Trails: farmtrails.org
Sonoma County Winegrape Commission: sonomagrapevine.org
Sonoma Land Trust: sonomalandtrust.org
California Waterfowl Association: calwaterfowl.org
Community Alliance of Family Farmers: caff.org
Ducks Unlimited: ducks.org
Trout Unlimited: tu.org