The rainfall year that ends Monday looks to be the 10th-driest in the 125 years on record for Modesto.
The final numbers are not in for the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which supplies much of the Northern San Joaquin Valley’s water, but they almost certainly will be even worse than the rain total.
The Modesto Irrigation District has recorded 7.19 inches in its downtown rain gauge in the year that started last July 1. Hot, dry weather is forecast for today, so count on that total to stick.
The figure is 59 percent of the historical average of 12.19 inches but better than the worst year on record – 4.3 inches in 1912-13.
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California rainfall is measured from July to June to assure that the total includes the main storm season from October to May. The state’s snowpack is measured from October to September, which accounts not just for the storm season, but the snowmelt that helps get farms and cities through the dry months.
The California Department of Water Resources sums up the runoff outlook through September by averaging five monitoring stations in the central Sierra. As of Sunday, the figure was 47 percent of average, which would be the third worst on record if no more rain or snow falls. The worst was 36 percent in 1923-24.
“The drought is having a huge impact across the state, and recent reports tell us that all of us can conserve more,” DWR Director Mark Cowin said in a news release.
Valley farmers are dealing with surface water cutbacks of varying severity and are looking to groundwater to augment the supply. The Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts are in fairly good shape with their Stanislaus River supply, while MID and the Turlock Irrigation District are making about 40 percent of their Tuolumne River deliveries. The Merced Irrigation District is in far worse shape, as are many of the West Side districts that have contracts with the federal Central Valley Project.
The situation is made worse by the fact that many reservoirs dropped during the two moderately dry years that preceded this year.
“Even though the drought has been top of mind for many Californians, it’s clear that all of us can do more to conserve,” said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. “No effort to conserve water is too small during this drought.”