Drought still on

By From page A6 | August 15, 2014

On Aug. 7 the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center downgraded the odds of having an El Nino fall and winter from 80 percent to 65 percent. The unit of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is pushing El Nino possibilities back from this month through winter to late fall and early winter.

The next update will be Sept. 4.

Right now a middle atmosphere ridge has formed off the West Coast and tropical storms from the western Pacific have contributed to its formation, according to Weather West. At the same time monsoonal flows have brought moisture from the south to California, leaving mudslides in Southern California and .01 inch of rain here Aug. 11.

None of this has changed the drought one iota.

The same day Placerville got its brief thunder downpour, the El Dorado Irrigation District board received the news that customer conservation had picked up somewhat. Since Jan. 1 potable water customers have saved 12 percent. That included one of the hottest Januaries on record. Since February when 8.85 inches of rain fell in Placerville, EID customers have saved 16 percent and recycled water customers have saved 18 percent.

The most recent weekly figure (July 30-Aug. 5) shows potable water customers saving 23 percent and recycled water customers, primarily in El Dorado Hills, saved 11 percent.

If this level of conservation can be maintained the district will be able to finish the dry season with 25,000 acre-feet of water in Sly Park’s Jenkinson Lake. That is deemed enough to carry through to next year if a second drought year follows this one.

Jenkinson Lake had 32,759 acre-feet of water as of Aug. 7. That level was supplemented by 3,000 acre-feet of water from Project 184 in 2013 and 5,000 acre-feet in 2014.

Project 184 consists of four alpine reservoirs that collect snow runoff and send it down 22 miles of canal, flumes and tunnels to Forebay Reservoir for cosumptive use and for hydropower. Before it gets to Forebay, some of it can be diverted through the Hazel Creek Tunnel into Sly Park, which is the major water supply for western El Dorado County. Water from both Forebay and Jenkinson Lake can be sent all the way to El Dorado Hills when the Folsom Lake pumps and the El Dorado Hills Water Treatment Plant are shut down. Sly Park, by the way, is served by tributaries that primarily are rain-fed, not snow-fed.

Currently the district is running low on recycled water. Because of customers conserving potable water use the district’s recycled water supply is down to 1.8 million gallons per day, according to Recycled Water Division Manager Vickie Caulfield. That is lower than the normal rate of 2.2-2.5 gpd, Caulfield told the board. To make up the difference the district is supplementing the recycled water with 1.5 to 2 mpd, accordign to Caulfield.

The future outlook for Outingdale customers of E-16 is looking dim. River flows on the Middle Fork are dropping and EID has lowered its pump. Expectations are that the river will “go underground soon.” EID is preparing to truck in water to fill the Outingdale water tank.

The message for all is to not slack off on water conservation efforts. The rain outlook for fall and winter is uncertain. Don’t forget to adjust automatic irrigation systems to twice a week on Sept. 15.


Mountain Democrat

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