April storms improve Kings River conditions

Runoff forecast at 56% of historic average, increased from 41% at the end of February

Photo: Kings River watershed, February 2019

April 20, 2020

Following an exceptionally dry February, recent precipitation brought a welcome improvement in Kings River watershed conditions. Runoff forecasts saw significant increases in the southern Sierra’s encompassing the Kings River watershed since the end of March. As of April 15, precipitation for the month reached 4.2 inches, 168% of normal.

The CA Department of Water Resources forecasts 680,000 acre-feet of April-July runoff, roughly 56% of the average for a season. This is a generous increase from the 41% forecast at the end of February.

Snowpack provides the runoff that feeds the Kings River and meets the needs of cities, farms, and communities within the service area. The Fresno Irrigation District, a Kings River water rights holder, announced on March 18 it would begin its 2020 water deliveries to growers on May 1. The District anticipates making deliveries through July for a three-month run.

Although the runoff forecast conditions remain considerably below the historic average, improved conditions can beneficially help meet water demand apart from groundwater supplies. Water managers are actively making efforts to manage water supplies strategically to improve groundwater sustainability in light of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

Many Kings River water rights holders have 2018-19 carry-over storage in Pine Flat Reservoir that can help supplement this year’s runoff. As a locally managed system that relies on a consistent and predetermined delivery schedule based on water conditions, the Kings River is efficiently and reliably managed for optimal surface water use.

Agricultural users are encouraged to practice strategic and informed irrigation practices. To assist growers, Kings River Conservation District’s AgLine information system provides crop water use information for the Kings River service area. Updated weekly, information provided for each crop includes crop water use for the past 7 days, predicted water use for the next 7 days, and total crop water use season to date.