This year’s severe drought conditions will result in the Fresno Irrigation District’s shortest water delivery service in 37 years. FID’s Board of Directors last night (May 13) voted to begin what is expected to only be a six-week water run on June 1. It is the third consecutive year of much below-average precipitation. The drought is negatively impacting water supplies throughout California.
“The last time FID was able to run water only six weeks was during the 1977 drought year,” said Gary Serrato, Fresno Irrigation District General Manager. “The shortened deliveries are the result of much lower than normal snowmelt runoff on the Kings River and the Central Valley Project’s zero allocation of water in the Friant Division.”
District officials “have been looking closely at the numbers and forecasts,” said Serrato. “Between the entitlement we have already received and have stored in Pine Flat Reservoir plus conservative projections of natural runoff over the next 2½ months, we’re hoping to be able to run for six weeks.”
FID is basing its delivery schedule on anticipation that the April-through-July peak snowmelt runoff period will generate a total of 360,000 acre-feet of Kings River runoff, about 29% of average. The Department of Water Resources’ May 1 forecast predicts a 32% runoff but also assumes normal amounts of precipitation would occur for the rest of the season.
“We don’t think that’s likely to happen, especially this late in the season,” said Serrato. He noted that a few spring storms significantly improved Kings River runoff prospects. Earlier predictions had suggested the Kings might have less runoff than occurred in 1923-24, the river’s worst water year on record. Runoff that year was 23% of average.
Despite the short delivery season, FID plans normal operations, with one exception. “The six-week run means that there will be a half time water run in July on canals with a 30-day delivery schedule,” said Serrato.