Residents of Lathrop used nearly 20 percent less water in February than they did during the same period in 2013 — the year that is used as litmus to gauge water conservation across the state.
But even with a record snowpack in the Sierra and the all-important April 1 snow survey coming – which gives California water planners a more accurate gauge of how much of that will translate into usable water for drinking and irrigation purposes – California’s drought regulations might not change all that drastically between now and when heavy summer use typically occurs.
And as monthly reports from Northern California communities like Lathrop has shown, residents have made fundamental changes in how they use water when compared to just four years ago – the last year before California’s drought hit a crisis stage and mandatory reductions and expansive conservation efforts began being put in place by the State of California.
With some pockets of the Northern San Joaquin Valley already exceeding their annual rainfall totals for 2017 – some hitting that mark in less than a month thanks to a series of atmospheric rivers that brought record rainfall to many parts of the north state – the need for outdoor watering has taken a backseat even as unusually warm spring conditions propped up in the latter-half of the month.
That warm weather just keeps right on rolling.
With temperatures hitting the mid-80s in some spots this week and the spring bloom finally emerging, some Central Valley farmers will soon be getting their first deliveries for water while others are still reeling from the wet conditions that have left some fields near the San Joaquin River completely underwater, and others, flooded by seepage, unlikely to be planted this year.
The immediate danger that was posed by the rising water appears to have passed now that the San Joaquin River at Vernalis – the last monitoring station before the river approaches River Junction and flows around South Manteca and onto Lathrop – has rescinded according to the most recent forecasts from the California Nevada River Forecast Center which shows the level declining steadily over the course of the next week.
Even with a warm storm expected to roll across the valley early next week – bringing warm rain with it that could affect the snowpack runoff in the Sierra – dam operators at Don Pedro have been able to reduce the level from the crest to a point where they feel they can manage the snowpack runoff without having a repeat of several weeks ago when spillways were opened to prevent the dam from topping.
It will be up for California Governor Jerry Brown to formally end the California drought regulations that have been in place to manage the water crisis over the last five summers – something that he’s reportedly considering weighing as information about the snow surveys and the abundance of water that could flowing into previously crippled reservoirs starts to come in.
By the middle of February, according to a survey by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Colorado at Boulder, the measured snowpack at that time filled more than one-third of the state’s measured “snow-water deficit” – something that was considered unthinkable at the start of the season.