End is Near for the 2023 Water Run

Dinuba – As 2023 winds down so does this year’s water run for Alta Irrigation District.  This year’s long water run was the result of the record setting winter storms in the Sierra Nevada mountains and precipitation that fell in the foothills and on the Valley floor. According to the Kings River Water Association, this year’s record-breaking winter storms generated over 4.5 million acre-feet of runoff, which surpassed the previous record set during the 1983 Water Year.

Late fall water run operations have been part of Alta Irrigation District’s standard operational scheme since 2017 and this year will be the same.  During the two previous “wet” hydrologic years, water runs ended sometime between the first and third weeks of November – 2017 and 2019 water runs were the longest in Alta Irrigation District’s 135 years of existence.

Ramping down headgate diversions over the final days of water run will cause water levels in canals to drop.  The change in water levels will not be uniform across the District and those lands located in the southern third of the service area will experience the quickest drop in water levels.  Soil types will also influence how quickly water levels change.  Canals crossing sandy soils like those found in near the Kings River and in the southwestern corner of the District could be dry in two or three days while canals crossing heavy, red clayey soils – located in the eastern third of the District; lower percolation rate than sandy soils – may have water for a week or more.  When the headgate diversion closely approximates the average percolation rate of the canals, then water levels will likely be too low for landowners to use.  Water charges will stop once there is an insufficient amount of supply available to manage, which is anticipated to occur sometime during the next seven days.

Alta Irrigation District’s General Manager Chad Wegley said headgate diversions for this October were the largest in nearly 70 years.  Preliminary data from Kings River Water Association indicates diversions this past October surpassed 30,000 acre-feet (AF), which broke the previous record of approximately 28,500 AF, set in 1978.  Dropping into third place was October 2019.  During that month diversions totaled over 26,000 AF.  Now in fourth place is October 1969 at 21,100 AF – this year was previous associated with the second largest runoff for the Kings River.  Fifth is October 1982 at 17,000 AF.  Two of the top five headgate diversions for October have occurred since General Manager Chad Wegley took the helm in 2017.