When it rains in California, it pours

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When it rains in California, it pours

California’s prayers for rain have been answered. And then some.

The Golden State’s produce growers were dealing with huge volumes of rain in the first week of 2023. National reports on Jan. 4 forecasted imminent new rainfall volumes from a “bomb cyclone” approaching California’s coastline.

A Western Growers Association representative was in Sacramento, attending a pre-scheduled Jan. 4 board meeting of the State Water Resources Control Board. At the meeting, Jeff Laird, water resources control engineer, of the division on water rights, reported on flooding.

In a nutshell, he says northern California had received 135% of average rainfall for the fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Notably, recent rain didn’t begin until late December.

Central California had received 183% of normal for the same time period, and southern California’s rainfall was 206% of average. He noted the San Joaquin area had received 10 of rain inches in the last month. The Tulare Basin in the southern Sierra had received 14 inches of rain in a month.

A Jan. 3 newsletter from The Water Agency, Inc., indicated, “Hopefully things don’t get worse. We have seen the flooding on the Consumnes River which doesn’t have a big flood protection reservoir like the other major rivers in California, but now we need to watch the smaller reservoirs like Folsom and Millerton to see if they have sufficient storage to prevent flooding downstream over the next ten days.”

Folsom Reservoir is already encroaching its flood conservation storage, the newsletter indicated. For a snapshot of expected precipitation in the nearby area, the Feather River Quantitative Precipitation Forecast is for 33% more water content in the next ten days (13.0 inches) than in the prior ten days (9.8 inches).

The Water Agency, adds, “We sure hope the snowline doesn’t go up any higher than is already forecast on that Feather River QPF (it may be at 6,000 feet on the 10th with 2.4 inches of precipitation expected that day) as it’s already looking dicey.”

This contrasts to October 2022, when WGA’s Dennis Nuxoll, discussed a horrible drought with Fresh Fruit Portal. Nuxoll, who works from Washington, DC, as vice president, federal government affairs, said, “For me it’s an all-hands-on-deck moment.

That’s certainly the case in the Colorado River Basin. In one or two years, if the water levels continue to drop, hydroelectric turbines won’t spin at lakes Mead and Powell. Los Angeles will not only have a problem with no water, but no electricity.”

Those directly dealing with flood matters weren’t answering their phones for interviews in early January, but it seems California growers – and Los Angeles – may, for now, have problems other than running out of water.

WGA is based in Irvine, CA.

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