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Drought planning leaves Don Pedro with 27% of full capacity
don pedro
While Don Pedro Reservoir's capacity is above every other reservoir in California except for Lake Perris, which is much smaller, it is actually about 27% of its full capacity (Photo contributed).

As the drought throughout the state continues to worsen, the Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors received information on Tuesday regarding exactly how much water is available in Don Pedro Reservoir. 

TID hydrologist Olivia Cramer showed the Board during their meeting this 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% of its 2,030,000-acre-foot capacity, or 1,305,688-acre feet. This is 84% 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% value, and the fact that Don Pedro does appear to be well above others and it looks like we are flushed with water,” Cramer said. 

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% 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 2020-2021 water year, which ends Aug. 31, sits at just 51% of average for the date after just 18.22 inches of rainfall. 

Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that over 85% of California is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought, up from 74.5% 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 33% of California experiencing the worst level today. 

The dry conditions persist as a heat wave rolls into the west this week, with local temperatures expected to reach as high as 100 to 113 degrees beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday and lasting through Saturday evening. 

The National Weather Service advises Valley residents to drink extra water, avoid outdoor exercise and seek air conditioning during the heatwave.