With the drought taking center stage, the Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors received information on June 14 regarding exactly how much water is available in Don Pedro Reservoir.
TID hydrologist Olivia Cramer showed the Board during their meeting last week that while Don Pedro may appear to have substantially more stored water than a majority of reservoirs in California, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the numbers.
According to data published by the California Department of Water Resources, Don Pedro currently sits at 64 percent of its 2,030,000-acre-foot capacity, or 1,305,688 acre-feet. This is 84 percent of the reservoir’s historical average for the date and puts Don Pedro above every other reservoir in California except for Lake Perris, which is much smaller.
While the data seems promising, Cramer explained it’s not quite accurate.
“There are some misconceptions that may be drawn from this 64 percent value, and the fact that Don Pedro does appear to be well above others and it looks like we are flushed with water,” said Cramer.
In planning ahead for dry conditions, TID is able to calculate exactly how much water from Don Pedro they can use, which is actually about 27 percent of its full capacity. Cramer presented this number after subtracting hundreds of thousands of acre-feet for dead storage water which is inaccessible, water bank, fish requirements and losses due to evaporation and percolation.
Cramer said she wanted to show the actual data from Don Pedro so that growers can understand why irrigation caps have been reduced the past two years. The region is expecting a second-straight dry year, and the 2020-21 water year, which ends Aug. 31, sits at just 51 percent of average for the date after just 18.22 inches of rainfall.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that over 85 percent of California is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought, up from 74.5 percent the week before. Stanislaus County is still experiencing extreme drought and has been for the last month. One year ago, exceptional drought couldn’t be found in the state, compared to a third of California experiencing the worst level today.