San Joaquin County can handle the past two years of below-average rainfall, but if we have another dry winter, there could be trouble, county officials told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
"This is going to be a 'watch' winter for us," Deputy Public Works Director Steve Winkler told the board. "The sky hasn't fallen just yet, but we're one winter away."
The Board of Supervisors directed Public Works to develop a plan - which could include mandatory rationing - in case the county has a third consecutive dry year. Water officials are expected to present a plan within the next six months.
"We're looking, probably, at best, normal (rainfall)," Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller said, projecting the upcoming winter.
Ruhstaller and Supervisor Victor Mow urged county staff to work with Lodi and the other six cities to develop a unified plan. Mow also suggested that Public Works communicate with schools and farmers about how acute the water supply is.
Mel Lytle, the county's water resource coordinator, said that droughts are nothing unusual, and they usually last for two to three years. The last drought to plague the Central Valley was from 1987 to 1992. Before that, there were significant droughts in 1976-77, in the 1950s, and the disastrous Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
However, with Southern California and southern San Joaquin Valley interests pursuing a peripheral canal to transfer water south from the Delta, Lytle noted that several Southern California dams have significantly more water than those in Northern California, which include Camanche, New Hogan, New Melones, Folsom and Shasta dams.
Many Northern California dams are slightly more than 30 percent of capacity, although Pardee is 88 percent full, Lytle said. Meanwhile, in Southern California, Lake Mathews is 78 percent full, Diamond Valley Lake is 64 percent of capacity and Lake Skinner is 91 percent full.
- The period between March and August of this year was the driest
on record in the northern Sierra Nevada. Only 3.4 inches of rain
fell, 24 percent of average.
- The statewide precipitation was 45 percent of average from
February through July, the fourth driest in the 114 years that
records were kept.
- The Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems will have a
two-year stream flow in the lowest 10 percent of historical
- The western United States had a 50-year drought in the
mid-1500s and separate droughts lasting 140 and 200 years between
900 and 1400 A.D.
Source: Mel Lytle, San Joaquin County