There’s a chance that Pine Flat reservoir could fill up this year, but the Kings River Water Association said it would take at least another two months of heavy snowfall for that to happen.
Watermaster Steve Haugen said Thursday the Sierra Nevada have received about 50 percent of the average annual snowfall as of Jan. 21. The snow season lasts until April 1.
“We need to keep the storms coming,” Haugen said.
Pine Flat’s water level is currently 177,000 acre-feet, up from 131,000 acre-feet around this time last year. The lake holds up to 1 million acre-feet, and the historical average level for this time of year is around 390,000 acre-feet. (An acre-foot is enough water for a family to use in a year.)
Haugen said the lake is now 21 feet higher than it was by mid-January last year. This is mostly because of precipitation in the foothills and lands surrounding the lake, which have received between 120 percent and 150 percent of the usual rain so far.
However, the snowpack and a few other variables will be the deciding factors on whether Pine Flat – and other lakes throughout the central San Joaquin Valley – is full for the summer months.
“Right now, we have an average snowpack,” Haugen said. “But an average snowpack doesn’t necessarily equate to an average water supply.”
177,000 acre-feet vs. 390,000 acre-feetCurrent water level at Pine Flat vs. the average for this time of year
The Kings River watershed – the 1 million acres of land in Kings Canyon National Park and elsewhere between the foothills and the Sierra crest – will soak up more water than normal, Haugen said. The area is unusually dry – a combination of drought and trauma from the Rough fire, which burned more than 150,000 acres over the summer.
There are 28 irrigation districts and canal companies that will use some of the water pumping through various streams after the snow melts, Haugen said.
The only way to guarantee a full lake would be if the Sierra received twice as much snow in the next two months as it did in December and January.
“If we meet or exceed 150 percent of the average water year, Pine Flat will be full,” Haugen said. “As low as 120 percent could also fill it.”
Right now, Pine Flat is on pace for an average year.
Millerton Lake is in a similar situation. It is currently about 195,000 acre-feet, up from about 183,000 acre-feet last year. The historical average for this time of year is about 321,000 acre-feet. The lake holds 520,500 acre-feet.