Fall’s Water Outlook Still Looking Dry
Perhaps there will soon be a change into a pattern of winter rain and snow but as mid November approached there remained no sign of it across Central California.
Increasingly severe arid conditions that have now existed for 9½ months remained well entrenched as of Veterans Day with weather conditions continuing as they have been for nearly all of this fall – sunny and dry.
TOO SOON TO TELL
It’s still too early to tell whether 2013-14 will turn out to be a third straight below average water year. Long-range National Weather Service climate outlooks for California offer no help. They continue to predict “equal chances” of above- or below-average precipitation through spring. Other federal climate reports, however, are more discouraging. They list the southern San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada as being under extreme drought conditions with most of the result of Central and Northern California experiencing severe drought.
Central Valley Project facilities and most other reservoirs are showing the strain. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reported that as the new water year began October 1, its six major CVP reservoirs contained 5.1 million acre-feet of water, 43% of average. A year ago, after a dry year, the same reservoirs contained 6.9 million acre-feet, 58% of average.
Millerton Lake, which supplies the Friant Division, is in a little better shape than most, mainly as a result of carryover storage and water earmarked for San Joaquin River Restoration Program interim flow releases.
As of November 9, Millerton storage was 267,766 acre-feet, about the same as last year but 138% of average to date.
What few storm events that have occurred since summer ended have left light amounts of precipitation in the mountains. Most new snow has melted.
Rainfall on the valley floor has been limited to some showers and few have generated more than miniscule amounts.
Exacerbating most current statewide water conditions is what happened last winter when carryover was average.
A wet November and December 2012 made the outlook promising but January through May 2013 turned out to be California’s driest on record.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has been developing strategies for dealing with continued dry conditions after meeting with CVP contractors and other interests and agencies.
“We began to examine operational flexibilities with our partner agencies and look at new water management strategies with stakeholders throughout California,” said Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo.
Reclamation has now issued a draft Water Year 2014 water plan, which is available on line at www.usbr.gov/mp/Water_Supply_Meetings/index.html. Preliminary CVP water supply conditions will be announced in late January with initial CVP water supply allocations following in late February.