Woodward Reservoir will be closed to recreational use, probably through summer, because of drought measures taken by the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.
General Manager Jeff Shields said Wednesday that the reservoir will be kept low to reduce evaporation and seepage. This will greatly reduce the surface area for recreation and require a ban on swimming and other human-body contact, he said, to protect the water quality for domestic users in Manteca, Lathrop and Tracy.
Woodward, a few miles north of Oakdale, also is used for irrigation in the SSJID, regulating releases from the much larger New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River. Shields said this is the first time Woodward, completed in 1918, will not fill.
The 6,667 acres of reservoir and surrounding land offer 115 developed campsites and facilities for boating, fishing, picnics and other activities. The services are managed by the Stanislaus County Department of Parks and Recreation. A representative could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
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The SSJID board voted Tuesday for the reduced level. The district is not facing major cutbacks during the drought, thanks to strong water rights and past conservation efforts, but Shields said the supply will be managed carefully in case 2015 is dry, too.
“I’ll tell you right now, we’re very concerned about next year,” he said.
Shields said Woodward, which has a capacity of about 35,000 acre-feet, is relatively shallow for a reservoir. That means it has a high ratio of water evaporating into the air and seeping into the ground. The lowering is expected to save nearly 10,000 acre-feet for SSJID, which expects a total supply this year of about 230,000 acre-feet.
The drought could hinder recreation at other reservoirs as the levels drop and water surfaces shrink. The economic effects already are rippling out to businesses that serve boaters, anglers and other enthusiasts.