Despite rain, Folsom Lake still below '76-77 drought level

By: Don Chaddock, Managing Editor
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FOLSOM, CA - While rain gave some much-needed relief to the region, and raised Folsom Lake to a level not seen not seen since late last year, one storm does not a drought end.

El Dorado Irrigation District officials are now asking their customers to cut water use by 30 percent. Folsom’s 20-percent water-use cut is still in effect.

According to the US Bureau of Reclamation figures, as of Sunday evening, the lake was at 370 feet elevation. The storm raised the lake 13 feet since Feb. 5.

Prior to the rains, the lake was at 17 percent capacity and now sits at 22 percent and is still far below the level of the lake at this same time during the 1976-77 drought years, according to statistics compiled by the California Department of Water Resources.

Folsom Mayor Kerri Howell asked residents to continue conserving water.

“If it rains for the rest of February and a good part of March, it will help,” she said, but warned it would take a significant series of storms to replenish the lake. “If anybody still has outdoor sprinklers on, please turn them off. The rain we just had should take care of your lawn for a month.”

She said water use needs to be cut, even though it’s only a temporary solution.

“You should continue to conserve indoor water use as well. We can’t conserve ourselves out of this problem. If there’s 500 cubic feet per second coming out of the dam and going downstream, the people getting water out of the lake we’re (only using) 80 cubic feet per second. I’m hoping the Bureau can further reduce the water coming out of the dam,” she said.

Folsom Water Conservation Coordinator Don Smith said water-use cuts should be easier with the rain.

“If you are still watering your lawn, turn them off,” said Don Smith, with the city of Folsom’s water department. “You shouldn’t have to water your landscape again for at least three weeks. Everyone was worried (about their landscaping) as soon as we said you could only water two days a week. Take advantage of the moisture. Save money on your water bill. Let Mother Nature do her thing right now.”

Smith said much more rain and snow in the Sierra is needed to get us out of danger.

 “What I’ve heard is we would need at least eight more storms like the magnitude we just had before the end of the rainy season to replenish the lake,” Smith said. “This was a warmer storm so we had rain on top of snow, which made it melt early. Which means we have less to count on down the road unless we have significant snow.”

He said snowpack in the Sierra is critical to the water supply.

“We look at the snow in the Sierra as our reservoir. When we don’t get the snowpack, it’s low. The snow water content was only 3.9 inches, which is 19 percent of average,” Smith said. “So it’s not far behind the condition of the lake and that was as of (Monday).”

Be thankful for rain, but keep the bigger picture in mind, he warned.

“We’re happy with what we got, but we still need more,” Smith said.