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Blossoms arrive but so may more rain
New report shines light on California water conditions
Almond trees have been blossoming in Valley orchards thanks to rain and nice sunny days. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Beautiful warmer weather in recent days have resulted in almond trees bursting forth blooms but reports of a storm blowing in this evening is a hint that the rainy season isn't over.

Wind and a 30 percent chance of rain are coming with a drop of temperatures to a high of 67. Temperatures are expected to drop to 65 on Thursday with Friday being mostly sunny.

El Nino conditions have brought a sense of normalcy to the drought-weary state. The idea of being "average" has likely never sounded so good to the Turlock Irrigation District following a report unveiled last week by the California Department of Water Resources that forecasted the region could potentially experience 2,010,000 acre-feet of runoff in an average scenario this year, a total that is 103 percent of the historical amount.

The Bulletin 120 report, issued by the DWR four times a year in the second week of February, March, April and May, contains forecasts of the volume of seasonal runoff from the state's major watersheds, as well as summaries of precipitation, snowpack, reservoir storage and runoff in various regions of California.

In the February forecast, the average scenario for the region shows approximately 2,010,000 acre-feet in unimpaired runoff, which is approximately 103 percent of the historical 1,955,000 acre-feet average. Unimpaired runoff represents the natural water production of a river basin, unaltered by upstream diversions, storage, or by export or import of water to or from other watersheds.

TID Utility Analyst Jason Carkeet said the DWR considers snow course measurements, or snow surveys, which measure the water content of snow at the first of the month, the precipitation to date in terms of inches equivalent of rainfall, runoff to date and other parameters before they come out with a forecast for prospective runoff with 80 percent probability range that the actual value will fall within the upper and lower limits.

For the region, the 80 percent probability range is between a lower limit of 1,430,000 acre feet of runoff and an upper limit of 2,970,000 acre feet of runoff.

"I would say that the B120 values were within the ranges we were expecting based on some of our other analyses," said Carkeet.

In his weekly water report, Carkeet revealed that the Tuolumne River Watershed accumulated 9.40 inches of precipitation in January, which he said is approximately 150 percent of the historical average of 6.32 percent.

This marks the fourth consecutive month that actual rainfall amounts have exceeded their monthly historical averages since the precipitation year started in September. Data up until Feb. 7 showed that the Tuolumne River Watershed has experienced 26.42 inches of rainfall, which is 128.3 percent of average for this date.

"We have a good start to the water year. However, the precipitation forecasts for the next 16 days are for somewhat dry conditions for this time of year," said Carkeet. "We will need to have wetter-than-average precipitation conditions through spring in order to start approaching runoff conditions that may fill Don Pedro."
Alysson Aredas contributed to this report.