California reservoirs inch closer to going dry

One weekend - five California lakes and rivers visited - and not a lot of water found.

With all the talk of California’s drought, we thought to show you where Central Valley farmers get a good portion of their irrigation water. That is when state and federal officials say there’s enough of it to go around.

This is not an exhaustive list of reservoirs which the irrigation districts source for farm water, but these are some of the major facilities in the San Joaquin Valley. It’s aimed at presenting a snap-shot in time – a critical time when lakes should be filling from snow runoff in the Sierra.

There will be no runoff this year.

Reservoirs named Pine Flat, Millerton, New Exchequer (Lake McClure), Don Pedro and New Melones hold, when full, nearly seven million acre feet of water behind dams. These reservoirs are on the Kings, San Joaquin, Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers, respectively.

As of April 11-12 when these photos were taken, these reservoirs held in combined storage just 27 percent of their total capacity, or about 1.8 million acre feet of water.

The lowest was New Exchequer at 9 percent. Don Pedro faired the best of the lot at 42 percent of capacity.

At 2.4 million acre feet, the largest of these facilities is New Melones on the Stanislaus River near Sonora. Current river flows into the Stanislaus River below New Melones Dam are being pulsed by the Bureau of Reclamation to push salmon and steelhead down river into the Delta. Those flows could total 30,000 acre feet of storage.

Out of Millerton flows the Friant-Kern Canal which should supply water to farmers from Chowchilla to Bakersfield. Because the canal system is part of the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), it delivers water from the Bureau of Reclamation to growers in the San Joaquin Valley.

This is the second consecutive year that growers will receive no surface water from the CVP.

Though the canal had some water in it over the weekend, Eric Quinley with the Friant Water Authority said the water was what remained of a 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) flow that moved to Friant Division contractors on March 31 and April 1.

The water was a carry-over allotment that Friant division contractors had the right to from water they did not use in previous seasons.

Quinley said the canal would normally carry about 1,000 cfs to Friant Division contractors at this time of year under normal water allocations.

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