I really don’t want to think about it! I’m talking about the summer season that we’re approaching with very little reservoir storage and almost no snowpack. I still don’t see any of the tough water-conservation measures I think we desperately need, if we are to avoid the consequences of our procrastination.
The whole situation seems ludicrous. We should have put in place two years ago strict water-usage rules that could have given us additional leeway now that we’re down to the wire. I feel like it’s one of those old movies, where the train is chugging along but just around the corner the bridge is out. No one is warning the conductor that disaster is ahead, and a full stop is the only way to avert catastrophe.
My feeling from looking at all of the proposed regulations and ideas is that most are old ones dealing with minor surface issues — like turning off your tap and not letting it run any longer than necessary or not ordering water at a restaurant. It’s time for some hard decisions.
Let’s look at two of the best reservoirs in the area as far as current capacity — Millerton and San Luis. First, Millerton has risen slowly to 204,000 acre-feet at an elevation of 496 feet, compared to 167,000 acre-feet at 482 feet at this time last year.
I talked to Kent Gresham, the Millerton superintendent, and he told me that the low pool is an elevation of 473 feet — about 9 feet lower than Millerton got to last year at this time. With less projected runoff than last year, the lake probably will hit the low-pool level sometime this season. But is it possible for the lake to be reduced below that this year, possibly jeopardizing the fishery? On the bright side, Millerton has a deep channel that gives some protection if it is taken lower.
On the other hand, San Luis is way up from last year — reaching more than 1.38 million acre-feet recently before the Department of Water Resources began releasing small amounts. I had hoped that they would be able to hold out till at least April before we saw releases. The lake reached its lowest point last year in November at 393,000 acre-feet. I hope that with a much greater water need this season that they can sip the water out slowly enough to get us through the year, with the reservoir able to be drained very rapidly if needed.
There is a low point at San Luis where they stop taking water because the algae gets so heavy it can’t be processed out effectively. In the past, that low point level was effectively reached when the surface water level got within something like 20-30 feet of the pipes. Since San Luis is basically laid out like a big bowl, with the bottom gradually decreasing till it gets to the easterly trash rack pumps, there is a lot of shallow area at low pool and no deep channel. These large shallow areas are very susceptible to overheating and fish die-offs.
Pine Flat, Hensley, Eastman and McClure are all gone, heading to mud holes at the present rate. One bright spot might be Shaver.
Sorry, I just don’t see the current half-hearted, half-baked solutions as going far enough to save us from reaching critical mass. And our fisheries hang in the balance. Building more dams may help in the long term, but I believe it’s going to take a comprehensive hard-line conservation program — with measures put into place right now — to help stop all kinds of major water wasting that could be moderated if not eliminated. People don’t change until they have to.
If the best we can do is to restrict watering to certain days and times, we’re in trouble. I hope we find the political will to make the hard decisions to reduce above- and below-ground usage. Why didn’t we see the wreck coming when we knew the bridge was out? Never give up!
Eastman bass on a tear, Mark Inman said. Shaver brooders hitting, Dick Nichols reported. Salmon season ready to launch, Chris Arcoleo said. Delta bass and striper bite hot, Alan Fong said.