Monday, July 28, 2014

Drought worries

From page A4 | January 13, 2014 |

Rainfall so far this year has been stingy. There are two kinds of water years. The rain year started July 1, 2013, and ends June 30, 2014. All our local weather stats from PG&E and ourselves dating back to 1873 are based on that type of season.

Water managers use a water year that starts in October.

For the rain year we have recorded 1.56 inches in our rain gauge since July 1. That is 3.94 percent of the 139-year average. As this editorial goes to press Friday, the forecast is for some rain Saturday. The Accu Weather extended forecast calls for rain again on the following Saturday. No one is expecting these to be gully washers. But we’ll take anything we can get at this point.

Folsom Lake is starting out its water year with not very much water. We previously pointed out that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation let too much water out to be ready for flood control. Now Folsom Lake is only at 18 percent of its nearly million acre-foot capacity. It holds 174,700 acre-feet of water as of Thursday. That is 89,400 acre-feet of water to spare before it becomes a dead pool at 85,000 acre-feet. By Friday it had lost 700 acre-feet.

San Juan Water District, which serves the immediate area of Granite Bay, also sells water wholesale to Folsom, Orangevale, Roseville and Citrus Heights water districts. All those districts are facing serious water shortages because San Juan’s sole source of water is Folsom Lake, though there may be some groundwater sources.

In seasonal terms (July-June), the drought of 1976-77 was the worst, with 15.9 inches of rain recorded that season. In terms of water years (October-August), though, 1923-24 was the driest at 17.1 inches. The water year 1976-77 actually was second driest at 19 inches. The graph line for current rainfall has sliced through the graph line for the 1976-77 water year. We are currently in unchartered territory, praying for change in February and another March miracle.

The water year 1923-24 was probably easier to handle because there were fewer people. The next year the El Dorado Irrigation District was formed. A total of 858 people voted to form the district and pick the first five directors.

By 1976-77 the district had en estimated 15 water meters serving an estimated 15,000 meters serving 40,000 residents and had two main sources of water: Sly Park and 15,080 acre-feet of water from PG&E’s hydroelectric Project 184. It also had an allotment from Folsom Lake for El Dorado Hills. Sly Park  was something close to a mud puddle, holding 3,800 acre-feet when its full capacity is 41,000 acre-feet. Marin County, which thought it could stop growth by not creating new water supplies, had to have water piped to it via the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Now EID has 39,349 water meters serving approximately 100,000 residents. It is likely EID will declare a Stage 1 Drought Alert, which will call on customers to voluntarily conserve water. More serious declarations likely won’t come until May when the district knows more about its upper mountain supplies. In 1999 the district got control of Project 184, which includes four alpine reservoirs in three counties, a diversion dam on the South Fork of the American River, 22 miles of canals and flumes that bring that water to Forebay Reservoir, where part of it goes to Water Treatment Plant 1 and the rest goes to a 21-megawatt powerhouse.

EID has water rights in excess of 23,000 acre-feet from Project 184.

Currently EID is holding onto the water it has in its alpine reservoirs. Caples Lake is at 57 percent of capacity, Echo Lake is frozen over as is Lake Aloha and their levls are sketchy. Silver Lake is at 17 percent of capacity. Sly Park is at 64 percent of capacity, though the historical average is 76 percent. The beauty of EID owning Project 184 is there is a tunnel that allows EID to transfer Project 184 water into Sly Park. Last year it transferred 3,390 acre-feet. In 2009 — a Stage 1 Drought declaration year — it transferred 6,000 acre-feet.

Whatever happens with EID water supplies, keep in mind that a lot of folks in the newer parts of El Dorado Hills have recycled water from the wastewater treatment plant to water their lawns and landscaping with.

If water supplies become restricted and EID continues to preserve its water supplies up in the Sierra, then it is going to come up short on its hydroelectric power supplies that average $8 million a year.

EID may have some more assurance on its water supplies, but if we don’t get more rain, expect a drought surcharge to be a possible outcome.



Mountain Democrat



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