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Prognosis for SSJID water looks good in 2015
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South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s water outlook for 2015 looks promising.

That, however, isn’t likely to be the case for much of the rest of California.

While meteorologists with Stanford University and the National Weather Service are predicting better precipitation this winter than last, it will still be below normal. It isn’t expected to break the back of the drought now in its fourth year. However, with the state’s lifting of the curtailment order for water diversions plus SSJID-OID rights to the first 600,000 acre feet of inflow into New Melones coupled with how SSJID has managed its water resources, the prognosis looks good for SSJID.

“We should be in fairly good shape for 2015,” SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields said.

That assumes a 75 percent of normal snowfall on the Stanislaus River watershed. It would also require farmers and the SSJID to maintain the tight water use practices of the past year and for Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon to continue stepped up water conservation. The cities have the additional challenge, however, of trying to reduce their underground water use as aquifers are continuing to drop and historically won’t be replenished to any degree until there are several back-to-back above normal years of rain and snow.

“We (SSJID) may be alright next year but much of the state won’t,” Shields said.

That is directly related to a deal brokered in the 1980s that allowed the federal government to flood the original Melones Dam built by SSJID and OID in 1925 in order to build the 2.4 million ace-foot New Melones Reservoir.

The deal was built on the two water districts being guaranteed the first 600,000 acre feet of runoff each year into the Reservoir. A 75 percent of normal year means the two districts will each receive their 300,000 acre feet of water but with current water storages and existing water contracts not much will be left over for other water users.

New Melones has

stopped dropping

New Melones dipped to its lowest point — 502,000 acre feet — in more than 20 years on Wednesday

New Melones Reservoir, though, won’t drop any farther this year.

That’s thanks in part to the Tri-Dam Project — a joint venture SSJID and OID — and how it has been managing Donnells and Beardsley reservoirs on the Stanislaus River above New Melones.

The Bureau of Reclamation had dropped outflow from New Melones earlier to 200 cubic feet (CFSS) of water per second.

Tri-Dam was releasing only 200 CFS with just Beardsley generating electricity prior to midnight on Friday. The lower releases were also down to accommodate PG&E that had taken a power plant below the Tri-Dam reservoir off line for repairs. That plant is expected to go back on line in a few days. The lower flows also were a precaution waiting to see how the Bureau would interpret curtailment orders that were suppose to protect users such as SSJIS and OID that had senior water rights.

New Melones was at 504,800 acre feet or 21 percent capacity as of midnight Saturday.

That’s after the Tri-Dam started generating power once again at Donnells and kicked up releases to 400 CFS.

While New Melones was at 21 percent of capacity (historically it is at 37 percent on Nov.     15), the Tri-Dam reservoirs are in better shape at about half full. Beardsley is at 44,487 acre feet with capacity of 97,000 acre feet. Donnells is at 33,000 acre feet with a capacity of 64,000 acre feet.

Tulloch Reservoir — a Tri-Dam unit that is below New Melones and above Goodwin Dam — is at 55,000 acre feet with a capacity of 66,000 acre feet.