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Dry year has local and California agencies worried, but it’s too early to ration water

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Posted: Saturday, January 4, 2014 12:00 am

While the Central Valley has not seen a significant amount of rain in months, there may be storm clouds on the way.

AccuWeather.com, a private weather forecasting service, predicts some raindrops Friday morning, with periodic rain throughout the day next Saturday.

This is good news for local governments and water districts, as the lack of rain in recent months has depleted water levels in the Mokelumne Basin by roughly 5 percent.

East Bay Municipal Utility District, which controls the Camanche and Pardee dams, said the Mokelumne Basin had 542,130 acre-feet of water stored at the beginning of 2013 — about 70 percent of full capacity.

On Wednesday, one year later, the district reported 504,590 acre-feet of water in the basin.

Pardee Reservoir, which can hold a maximum of 197,950 acre-feet, is currently at 174,080 acre-feet. Lake Camanche, which holds a maximum 417,120 acre-feet of water, currently holds only 227,950 acre-feet, according to EBMUD data.

Abby Figueroa, a spokeswoman for the district, said officials will continue to monitor reservoir levels on a daily basis. But it is still too early in the year to consider water rationing for their East Bay Area customers, she said.

“We have to just keep watching the water levels,” she said. “In April we could start to consider the announcement of a drought if we don’t see a lot of rain and the water levels in the basin continue to drop.”

Maurice Roos, chief hydrologist with the California Department of Water Resources’ Division of Flood Management, agreed, adding that this year is looking to be similar to 1977, the driest water year for the state.

He said in order to declare a drought, water runoff in a single year would need to total less than 10 percent, and statewide reservoir storage would need to be 70 percent or less.

Roos said statewide reservoir storage is currently at 70 percent capacity, down from a year ago.

“It’s a bit early, in my opinion, to conclude runoff this year will be (lower than) 10 percent, since about 65 percent of the precipitation season is left,” he said. “However, the rain and snow deficit, although it can be eased, is not likely to be fully restored later.”

Roos said Mokelumne River storage looks good this year, although if it remains dry, there could be small problems for local water systems in the Central Valley.

Thomas Gau, San Joaquin County Public Works director, said his department is keeping a close eye on water levels in the reservoirs. But while the county is concerned by the lack of rain, he said, it is still premature to consider water rationing.

“We are very concerned because we don’t seem to be receiving any large amounts of rain,” he said. “What we’re currently doing in our various districts is promoting different ways to conserve water.”

Gau said installing drip systems, which water plants a few drops at a time, or growing plants that need little to no water are the easiest ways to conserve.

The City of Lodi has a number of requirements in place to save water under its current Water Conservation Ordinance.

Under the ordinance, residents should not allow a controllable water leak to go unrepaired, water down buildings or paved areas such as sidewalks, driveways or patios, use a hose without a shut-off nozzle, allow excess water to flow into a gutter or drainage area for more than three minutes, or excessively water lawns or landscapes during or after rain, or between Nov. 1 and Feb. 28.

In addition, the ordinance states odd-numbered addresses may water lawns, landscapes, decorative plants, gardens and flower beds on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Even-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. is not allowed from May 1 through Sept. 30.

AccuWeather is predicting sporadic rainfall on Jan. 16 and 31, as well as on Feb. 2. Rain isn’t expected to fall again until the morning of Feb. 12, and even then AccuWeather is calling it “a little morning rain.”

AccuWeather forecasters said a quarter-inch of rain fell in the area Dec. 6 and 7. Only 4.63 inches fell throughout 2013 in the area, according to the service. The average rainfall for the Lodi-Stockton area is typically 14.07 inches, forecasters said.

Contact reporter Wes Bowers at wesb@lodinews.com.

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1 comment:

  • trista aquino posted at 12:46 am on Mon, Jan 6, 2014.

    trista aquino Posts: 98

    Oh great! A demonstration of procrastination for the next generation to watch and learn from! Ya lets go ahead and wait til the last minute to use and consume only that which is necessary so that our kids can embrace the wasteful attitudes instilled in them for as long as possible. Im sure when the pressure is on they will thank us for giving them a greater challenge to face when the time comes to change.

     

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