Saturday, 22 June 2024

Yolo Flood to get full water allocation this year

LAKE COUNTY – An extended rainy season and better lake levels are allowing farmers in Yolo County to get needed water for irrigation this year.

Yolo County Flood Control & Water Conservation District, based in Woodland, owns the water rights to Clear Lake, and began irrigation season last month.

Jennifer Reed, Yolo Flood's project manager, said the wet spring conditions pushed Clear Lake's level up high enough that the district was able to take its full allocation – or 150,000 acre feet – for the first time since 2006.

In 2009, because Clear Lake's level was so low – only at about 4.0 feet Rumsey on May 1 – Yolo Flood was only able to draw 21,767 acre feet from the lake, as Lake County News has reported.

“Last year we saw a lot of land fallowed,” said Reed, noting that there wasn't much of an irrigation season at all. Because of less available water, crops like rice were scaled back in favor of low water crops.

Early in May the water picture was strong enough that Reed said Yolo Flood began doing flood releases.

Lake County's Water Resources Department reported that the Solano Decree, which specifies how much water Yolo Flood and its customers can have during each summer month, requires that the lake be at 7.56 feet Rumsey or higher on May 1 for Yolo Flood to take the full allocation.

From that full level down, the amount of water available is staggered. If the lake is below 3.22 feet Rumsey on May 1, Yolo gets no water from the lake, Water Resources reported.

The county reported that on May 1, Clear Lake measured 7.77 feet Rumsey. On Sunday, the lake level had fallen to 6.92 feet Rumsey, based on the US Geological Survey lake level gauge.

According to Water Resources, 150,000 acre feet totals approximately 3 and a half feet of Clear Lake's depth. The lake reportedly loses another 3 feet each year due to surface evaporation.

Water Resources reported that an acre foot of water totals 326,000 gallons, meaning that Yolo Flood's total allocation in years with a full lake is approximately 48.9 billion gallons.

While it's getting its full measure of water this year, Yolo Flood reported that the late spring rains had another effect – they resulted in planting delays and suppressed demand for water.

With planting decisions needing to be made months in advance, the late rains left some growers uncertain of how to proceed. Reed said they still don't know what the fallout from the rain will be on the district's crops.

“It was looking pretty grim there for a long time,” she said.

The district, which has an average of 60,000 irrigated acres, won't have a normal year, despite the available water, according to Reed.

“We're going to be having a shortened irrigation system because of the late spring rains and also because of construction that has to happen downstream on the Capay diversion dam,” Reed said.

The district isn't putting into effect any water allotments for growers this year, because Reed said they believe they can meet the demand based on their current water supplies.

Besides Clear Lake, the district also owns the water in Indian Valley Reservoir, which is part of its water supply equation, said Reed.

The district reported that on Friday Indian Valley Reservoir had nearly 99,000 acre feet in storage, more than twice its level last year. While that's better than it was, Reed said it's still slimmer than the district would like.

She explained that the Clear Lake watershed is much bigger than the reservoir's.

“This year is a really great example of how well Clear Lake can respond to the storms that come in,” said Reed.

Indian Valley's watershed requires a much bigger rain year to fill up, she added. In 2006 the reservoir was “filled to the brim.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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