The snow melt forecast calls for 1.6 million acre feet of water to flow into New Melones Reservoir in the coming months.
That’s based on a Central Sierra snowpack survey that feeds the Stanislaus, Merced, and Tuolumne rivers’ watershed that was at 158 percent of normal as of Friday, March 22. Water content of that snowpack is on the high side at an average of 45.2 inches.
That bodes well for South San Joaquin Irrigation District.
“We have a good water supply for this year and probably into next year as well,” noted SSJID General Manager Peter Rietkerk.
The SSJID board has started the irrigation season as of March 20.
“The decision was made when we were between rainy periods,” Rietkerk said.
Given that nature has responded better than expected with early spring rains few farmers have been taking water deliveries. That combined with storm runoff from the cities of Escalon and Manteca has allowed the district to dial back releases from Woodward Reservoir to further conserve water.
Some of the water that was released for the irrigation run ended up being “spilled” at the end of the system and back into the San Joaquin River.
Typically the SSJID canals that do double duty to carry away urban rain water from Escalon and Manteca don’t have a conflict as the rainy season usually ends before the start of the irrigation season. The district has been juggling storm runoff with the irrigation run.
New Melones was at 84 percent capacity on Sunday with 2,024,783 acre feet of water. It represents 135 percent of average capacity for March 24. The largest reservoir on the Stanislaus River watershed can hold a maximum of 2.4 million acre feet. There is currently 3,961 cubic feet of water per second (cfs) flowing out of New Melones with 3,042 cfs flowing in. A cubic foot is roughly the volume of one basketball. That means the water equivalent of 3,961 basketballs are passing a set point every second underscoring how powerful and dangerous the Stanislaus River flow is as it heads past Oakdale, Escalon, Ripon, and Manteca to join the San Joaquin River.
The SSJID provides irrigation water to 52,000 acres as well as drinking water to the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy.