More than 40,000 people who get their water from Tuolumne Utilities District are being asked to use 21 percent less water through October compared with their usage in 2013, according to TUD staff.

That’s a reduction from the 24 percent conservation target mandated last year for TUD by the State Water Resources Control Board. The new 21 percent conservation target is effective immediately.

This winter has been the Mother Lode’s wettest since 2010-11. But the conservation reduction is due to a climate adjustment based on evaporation and transpiration of water into the atmosphere in TUD’s service area, according to State Water Resources Control Board staff.

The TUD Board of Directors voted 5-0 Tuesday night on the new conservation target, after hearing a water supply outlook from Tom Haglund, general manager for TUD.

As of Tuesday morning, Pinecrest Reservoir was holding 9,496 acre-feet of water and Lyons Reservoir was holding 3,988 acre-feet, Haglund said. Ten inches of new snow fell overnight Monday into Tuesday at Lower Relief Valley, bringing water content up to 40 inches, compared to 9 inches of water content at Lower Relief this time last year.

The amount of snow currently in place will certainly fill both Pinecrest and Lyons this year, “regardless of current reservoir storage readings,” Haglund said.

Above average

Total accumulated rainfall since July 1 at TUD’s regional wastewater treatment plant in Sonora as of Tuesday morning was 32.50 inches, above the 25-inch average for this time of year at the same location, Haglund said.

In spite of a dry February, the winter so far has ensured adequate water supply through the remainder of 2016 for about 44,000 people who get their water from TUD, Haglund said earlier this month.

But climbing out of recent drought years will likely take at least two more consecutive wet winters.

“Our customers, like all Californians, will be asked to extend their conservation efforts again this year, through October,” Haglund said. “This is an overall indication of the breadth and depth of the historic drought.”

Fresh snow in the South Fork Stanislaus River watershed above Pinecrest before Tuesday night’s meeting was a positive sign. But TUD staff want people to understand that having enough water is not the same as getting clear of the drought and its concerns.

Drought persists

“California has experienced a deep and broad four-year drought that has drastically affected water supplies throughout the state,” Haglund, Lisa Westbrook and Glen Nunnelley said in a TUD staff report. “Notwithstanding the return of a normal year snowpack and above normal precipitation levels throughout the state, the drought persists and state regulators continue to impose water use restrictions.”

On Feb. 2, the State Water Resources Control Board extended emergency water conservation regulations up and down California due to ongoing drought. The state water board intends to re-evaluate current conservation mandates, including 21 percent for TUD, in May.

According to scientists with the U.S. Drought Monitor, 93.28 percent of California is in some form of drought, from moderate, severe and extreme to exceptional. All of Tuolumne County and most of Calaveras County remain in the most dire category.