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Stanislaus River watershed snow at 53% of average

Despite the atmospheric river that dumped upwards of 80 inches of snow on the highest points of the Stanislaus River watershed last month, the Central Sierra snowpack is just at 53 percent of average for Feb. 18.

South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Peter Rietkerk in a memo to the board describes the 2020 water year that started Oct. 1 as being “off to a very dry start.”

The current snowpack  — plus potential runoff modeling into New Melones Reservoir — is prompting the staff to recommend to the SSJID board to start the 2021 irrigation season either on March 10 or March 17.

The SSJID board meets Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the district office. Due to COVID-19, the public cannot attend in person but can participate via teleconference. Details on how to do that are posted on the district’s website.

The current modeling means there will be no initial imposition of water allotment  or Tier II restrictions. The district will also be able to deliver contractual drinking water deliveries to Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy.

The SSJID along with Oakdale Irrigation District have the rights to the first 600,000 acre feet of water that flows into New Melones each year. The two districts split their allocation evenly.

Using current hydrology projections, SSJID is estimated to receive an allocation of 275,000 acre feet  this year. SSJID used 249,000 acre feet in 2020.

“The dry conditions we’ve experienced over the last two years are a sharp reminder of the potential for drought in California,” Rietkerk noted in his staff report. “Water supply projections are currently looking better than last time at this year, but statewide, we are looking at back-to-back years of significantly below average rainfall. “

SSJID staff will be looking at ways to improve operation efficiencies during the irrigation season to conserve and extend use of available water supplies from the Stanislaus River watershed.

“Staff also wishes to remind our customers to always be mindful of their water use, and to use water efficiently always, but especially as drought conditions are expected to return in the near-term,” Rietkerk added.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email