Water Managers Bracing for the Worst

New Melones Reservoir — critical to Escalon farmland, as well as Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy water supplies — was at 616,704 acre feet on Oct. 6.

That’s less than half the average 1,326,146 acre feet of water storage for the date of Oct. 5.

To put that in perspective, it is 47 percent of the average in storage for the start of a new California water year that officially started on Oct. 1.

California’s Major Reservoirs Are Still Far Drier Than Average

The just-passed atmospheric river gave California a lot of precious, badly needed water. But how well did our all-important reservoir systems do? For California, water storage, above and underground are the key to California’s economic fate.

As of midnight Monday, California’s major reservoirs keep getting more water from the weekend’s storm as the runoff finds its way into them.

‘Extreme Year’: Past 12 Months Among the Driest Ever in California History

The current ongoing two-year dry period in California, punctuated by the third-driest water year on record for the Central Sierra, is part of California’s overall arid fate so far in the 21st century, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

The Golden State’s hydrology now increasingly resembles conditions in the Colorado River Basin this century, where multiple, consecutive, drier-than-average years are mixed with an occasional wet year. California’s last wet water year was 2016-2017, the second-wettest on record.

Bureau Blocks Water Transfer to Help Save SJ Valley Farmers

Farmers on the western edge of the parched San Joaquin Valley have little or no ground water resources this year. The South San Joaquin Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District have legal rights to 200,000 acre feet of water sitting behind New Melones Reservoir beyond this year’s needs of the farms and urban customers they serve. The two districts want to help the farmers who will face a difficult choice: Let tens of thousands of acres of productive orchards die and leave cropland fallow or else accelerate groundwater pumping to exacerbate dropping aquifers the State of California has identified as a pressing issue.