Even should the Turlock Irrigation District collect average rainfall from this date forward, the 2012, 2013, and 2014 water years will add up to become the driest three-year period in TID history. That record dates back to 1897.
The revelation came during a regular weekly water report, delivered to the TID Board of Directors on Tuesday. Or as TID Board of Directors President Ron Macedo called it, “The lack thereof water report.”
In most parts of California, between 10 and 25 inches of rain would have fallen by this point in an average water year. But most areas are between 12 and 16 inches below normal in this exceptionally dry year.
And in many areas, it's even worse.
“It's anywhere from zero to a quarter-inch (of rain),” TID Utility Analyst Jason Carkeet said.
TID's watershed would normally have accumulated 19.7 inches of rain and snow by this point. But only 3.19 inches of rain have fallen – more than 16 inches below normal, and only 22.7 percent of normal.
Just .88 inches of rain fell in December, far below the 5.96 inches of rain in the average year. And rain has yet to fall in January, historically the rainiest month averaging 6.53 inches of precipitation.
Making matters worse, no rain is forecast for the next week, at least. Even the most optimistic forecasts show only a half-inch of rain falling in the next 16 days.
Piling bad on top of bad, TID entered this season following two dry years. That means the ground will absorb more water than in an average year, letting less rain flow to TID's Don Pedro Reservoir.
“Coming into the season, we're already handicapped,” said Wes Monier, TID Strategic Issues and Planning Department Manager.
Don Pedro Reservoir is already low after two years of drought, holding just over 1 million acre-feet of water. That's roughly 51 percent of Don Pedro's capacity – a figure actually better than most Northern California reservoirs due to TID's prudent planning and limited water allocations.
Forecasts show that this water year has a 15 percent chance of repeating 1977, the driest water year on record, accumulating only about 325,000 acre-feet of water.
“And that's moving up about 1.5 percent each day it doesn't rain, Monier said.
By comparison, average conditions from this point forward would yield about 690,000 acre-feet of water. And even should wet conditions prevail, TID would gather only about 1.4 million acre-feet of water – less than in an average year.
That could leave TID growers facing minimal water allotments this irrigation season. During last irrigation season, the district warned that the irrigation water cap could be as low as 18 inches, should 2014 be dry.