In a major change from traditional operating procedure, the Turlock Irrigation District’s Turlock Lake will be kept half-full this summer in a water conservation maneuver.
The news, confirmed by TID staff Tuesday, comes despite previous reports by other media outlets that the lake would be filled.
The lake, located in La Grange, traditionally holds about 32,000 acre-feet of water in the summer. Its waters directly feed into TID’s canal system.
But this year, the district will hold just 16,000 acre-feet of water in the lake.
“That’s essentially half the capacity,” said TID Assistant General Manager of Water Resources Tou Her.
The decision comes following a Feb. 25 declaration that the district is operating in a drought state of conditions. Staff immediately began working on plans to conserve water, Her said.
Turlock Lake is a wide, shallow lake, covering about 3,500 acres in a normal year. By only filling the lake half-full, its surface area will be reduced by about 35 percent – limiting the area water may evaporate from.
“There’s quite a bit of water that gets away from us in terms of evaporation and seepage,” Her said.
The plan is expected to save 10,000 acre-feet of water for TID, a significant amount in this dry water year.
No recreation activities are expected to be impacted, despite the lower water levels at the lake. The district is working with the concessionaire who operates Lake Turlock, American Land and Leisure, to determine locations for boat launch ramps and find solutions for other recreational purposes.
But there are drawbacks to the plan.
The reduced water level will prevent TID from operating the Lake Turlock powerhouse; it will generate no hydroelectricity from Lake Turlock this year.
And should some sort of disaster occur to the district’s Upper Main Canal, wiping out the lake’s link to Don Pedro Reservoir, Lake Turlock will hold only about six to seven days worth of irrigation water. A full Lake Turlock would hold between 14 and 17 days worth of water supply, giving the district more time to fix the system before farmers were impacted.