Lack of Rain Could Have “Significant Impact” on TID Irrigation

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Current forecasts call for only two-tenths of an inch of rain on Thursday, and another tenth on Friday.

That's not enough to push the Turlock Irrigation District's annual rainfall totals back to normal, and instead will put this irrigation season even further behind the 50-year average.

“A tenth here and a tenth there really doesn't have that much of an impact,” said TID Utility Analyst Jason Carkeet. “We need storms that are eight-tenths of an inch, an inch and a half … to really have much impact.”

A dry January and February have pushed year-to-date precipitation totals well below average, undoing an exceptionally rainy December. Only 89.7 percent of the average rainfall for this date has materialized this water year; at the close of December, precipitation levels were 133 percent of normal.

If rainfall from this point forward meets historical averages, TID would have about 1.7 million acre-feet of water for this irrigation season. But if it remains dry through Feb. 20, as forecast, normal precipitation for the rest of the water year would result in only 1.3 million acre-feet of available irrigation water.

“In that time frame, we could lose about 40,000 acre-feet of water a day,” Carkeet said. “Each day it's dry it has a significant impact.”

On average, 6.19 inches of precipitation fall in the Tuolumne River watershed in February.

Early California Department of Water Resources snow course measurements paint a slightly rosier picture, with snow levels at 98.7 percent of average for the Feb. 1 series of measurements. But Carkeet cautions looking at that early snow course measurement too closely.

“It's so early in the season, that it's not significant as far as planning goes,” Carkeet said. “In other words, they don't recommend putting a crop in based on this projection here.”

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