California Department of Water Resources reports the larger reservoirs such as Shasta, Oroville and Folsom are at near historic lows.

Shasta, the biggest reservoir with a capacity of a little over 4.5 million acre-feet, contains only 20 percent of that capacity as of Nov. 16, and only half of its average storage at this stage of the annual water cycle. Virtually the same numbers apply to Oroville, which has a 3.5 million acre-feet capacity and is currently at 29 percent.

The situation is somewhat worse at Folsom, with just 223,000 acre-feet of water in a lake that could hold nearly a million acre-feet. The San Luis reservoir near Los Banos holds 2 million acre-feet. At this point in the season it usually has more than 1 million acre-feet, but is only at 17 percent of capacity. Pine Flat on the Kings River in Central California, with a capacity of 1 million acre-feet is currently at 14 percent. The reservoir numbers (updated daily) are available at: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/current/RES.

Sonoma County grape growers are concerned about water just like other producers, according to Nick Frey, president of Sonoma County Winegrape Commission in Santa Rosa, Calif. “It has been dry since the end of February. We got some good rains in November, but we need more. If we get normal rainfall this winter, most growers will be okay. If precipitation is below normal, groundwater recharge may be impacted, affecting some wells. For those who collect surface water, the key will be whether or not reservoirs fill.

“We used a lot of water last spring, Frey says. “If we get late rains in the spring, then we will start the season with a full soil profile. That often carries us into June or July before irrigation begins. Then most growers will practice deficit irrigation, metering on water through the drip system to maintain a certain level of stress.”

“With the possibility of the third below average rainfall and dry winter staring us in the face, water is becoming an even more critical issue,” says Bedwell. “The requirement for a Delta solution that provides adequate and efficient conveyance without adversely impacting agriculture in that area along with the need for more surface water storage becomes more important each day.

“Gov. Schwarzenegger has made clear the fact that a comprehensive water bond needs to be passed by the citizens of this state. Agriculture needs to do all that it can to assist the governor in this goal. In addition, issues revolving around the restoration of the San Joaquin River remain to be resolved so that agriculture, particularly on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, from Madera County down to Kern County, remains sustainable.”