End of summer finds California's water supply in better shape, but critical shortages remain

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The drought is far from over, water supplies are generally up across the state. (KFSN)

The drought is far from over, water supplies are generally up across the state.

"In most areas, we are definitely doing better than we were last year," said Michael Jackson, Bureau of Reclamation.

Jackson notes Millerton Lake is at 108-percent above its normal level for this time of year. Meaning the growers who depend on water from behind Friant Dam got most of what they expected.

"We allocated, currently, in the Friant system, what's called 75-percent class one."

It's a much different situation on the west side, where the San Luis Reservoir remains near a historic low, with less than half of what it normally has this time of year. Much to the dismay of the growers in the Westland's Water District.

"Where the actual reservoir was in danger of going dry. That's never happened in the history of our water system being in place," said Gayle Holman, Westland's Water District Public Affairs.

The main supply for the San Luis Reservoir is Shasta Reservoir in Northern California. The reservoir is currently at 107-percent of average for this time of year. Even though there is plenty of water, the flow south has been limited to help migrating salmon. Meaning water that would have flowed south and then pumped into San Luis was delayed. More water is coming now but Holman said it is too little too late.

"We've just come off of two years of a zero water allocation. I don't know how much longer this area can hold on. And again, it's not just farming it's the economy, it's jobs, its school enrollment."

Farmers on the east side of the Valley, who rely on water from Millerton Lake and Pine Flat Dam are in better shape but face an uncertain future.

"When it comes to the eastern side of the Valley, we did see a stronger year as far as precip, but still it was under the 100-percent average we were expecting. So we are going into this year still in a big hole because of the cumulative effect of the years before that," said Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau.

Forecasters aren't sure what kind of snow we can expect this winter, but it is not a good sign. Warmer than normal weather is expected through October.
Growers are also hoping for legislation to direct more water their way, but action to ease environmental regulations has been stalled in congress.

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