The National Weather Service forecasts rain for 12 of the next 14 days in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
While that may buoy hopes the six-year drought may be nearing its end — especially with water precipitation on the Stanislaus River watershed at 137 percent of normal for this time of year, South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Peter Rietkerk said people need to keep focused on what really counts. And that is the Sierra snowpack and its water content.
The Department of Water Resources on Tuesday reported the Sierra snowpack is at 70 percent statewide while the water content is at 53 percent of normal. The numbers on the Central Sierra that includes the Stanislaus River watershed are somewhat lower.
Couple that with below normal carryover storage — New Melones Reservoir has 632,000 acre feet of water in a 2.4 million acre foot reservoir putting it at 26 percent of capacity — and it is too early to tell whether the Northern San Joaquin Valley will be able to successfully weather another summer and fall without keeping cutbacks in place or expanding them.
“A lot depends on the snowpack,” Rietkerk said.
Roughly 90 percent of the state is still in drought based on federal and state assessments.
Rietkerk noted people will see rain for several days or a week and believe the drought is over.
He pointed out that reservoir levels have been drawn down over multiple years to help bridge the drought and need to be brought back up.
Rietkerk added the key will be snowfall and how it fares not just with the current storm but through Apirl 1.
Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon continue to enforce tougher conservation measures.
In Manteca — should the forecast hold — it will be illegal to water yards until at least Jan. 21 given it is illegal and subject to a fine if you irrigate landscaping during or within 48 hours following measurable rainfall as defined by storms that generate run-off or puddles. While that may seem common sense given that lawns and most landscaping are dormant during the colder winter months there are residents and commercial ventures that continue to water.
City water conservation staff has been able to make headway against such wanton use of water during rainy days by issuing warnings.
Ripon has some of the strictest water rules around prohibiting water more than once a week during the winter,
No watering is allowed on Monday or any day between noon and 6 p.m. in Manteca Watering for even addresses is on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday while odd addresses can water on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.
Manteca also does not allow the use of water on any day at any time for washing off sidewalks, driveways, patios, parking lots or other exterior non-landscaped areas without a permit obtained from the Manteca Public Works Department office at the Civic Center. Water is also not allowed to flow into a gutter or other drainage area for longer than 5 minutes. All water leaks or malfunctions in plumbing or irrigation systems must be fixed with 24 hours.
Penalties include a written notice on the first violation, a $100 fine with applicable fees on the second violation that may be waived by attending a water conservation workshop a $200 fine and applicable fees on the third violation; and $500 fines for each and every subsequent application plus applicable fees.
The city and nearby communities are also facing challenges imposed by an aggressive state proposal to commander Stanislaus River water for fish as well as mandates to balance groundwater pumping.
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