The latest recorded rainfall in Tracy was on Jan. 26, and it wasn’t much — two-hundredths of an inch — and there’s no rainfall expected in the next two weeks at least. More and more people are beginning to say, “It’s feeling a lot like a drought — again.”
Evidence of that is unfolding in rural Tracy farmland, where irrigation water is starting to flow out of canals and into fields — a month earlier than “normal.”
“We started delivering water Tuesday,” reported David Wiesenberger, general manager of the Banta-Carbona Irrigation District. “We expect to keep going another 10 days and then see how things develop.”
He said most of the water is being applied to almond orchards, where trees are about to start blossoming, and the water will help with pollination. Some water is also going to cherry orchards and vineyards.
The same report has come from the Byron Bethany Irrigation District, where water deliveries are beginning this week in the northern part of the district in the Byron and Brentwood areas.
“No one knows if more rain will come our way,” said Nick Janes, BBID’s public affairs manager. “Last year, late rains arrived in a series of late-spring storms, but you can’t count on that.”
Reservoirs holding Sierra runoff water have higher beginning levels than last year at this time, and that can ease some of the angst among agricultural water users.
A sampling of current reservoir levels based on capacity: Shasta (Sacramento River), 74 percent; Oroville (Feather River), 41 percent; Folsom (American River), 59 percent; New Hogan (Calaveras River), 50 percent; Don Pedro (Tuolumne River) 82 percent; New Melones (Stanislaus River), 83 percent.
The snowpack in the Central Sierra is 30 percent of normal.
According to state water agencies, the drought that spanned water years 2012 through 2016 included the driest four-year statewide precipitation total on record (the years 2012-15) and the smallest Sierra-Cascades snowpack on record (2015, 5 percent of average).
Tracy’s cumulative rainfall since July 1 stands at 3.55 inches, compared with 10.01 inches this time last year.