Drought may cause major problems this year in the Central Valley

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FRESNO, California (KSEE) – More and more signs show drought could cause major problems this year in Central California – affecting everything from the food we grow to the risk of wildfire.

Water flow in the Sierra right now is not only well below average – it looks a lot like the Februaries of 2014 and 2015, which were severe drought years.

California Department of Water Resources https://cdec.water.ca.gov/resapp/AccumulatedRunoff

Other indicators of water supply don’t look much better. In many parts of California, the snowpack is near half of the average for this time of year.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

State agricultural water allocations to farmers south of the Delta are 10%. Federal allocations via the Central Valley Project to the west side of the Central Valley are now 5%.

“5% amounts to about 60,000 acre-feet for Westlands,” said Westlands Water District COO Jose Gutierrez. “And when you spread that out amongst the irrigable acres per district. It’s about .13 acre-feet per acre or 1.5 inches of irrigation water per acre.”

The USDA has not only expanded areas in California officially in a drought, but in extreme drought.

USDA Drought Monitor https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?West
USDA Drought Monitor https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?CA

“I am concerned with water supply because especially because we have been below average every month since the start of the water year, which starts in October,” said Gutierrez. “These storms that we experienced in late January and early February – and we were blessed with that rain and very grateful. Without that rain, the allocation would have been much much lower and probably would have been zero.”

Some long-term forecasts are indicating this spring will be drier than average.

NOAA Climate Prediction Center https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/90day/

Yet Gutierrez remains hopeful for a Miracle March.

“We need a wet March, a wet April, and hopefully a wet May to get us close to average.”

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