California drought. Don Pedro reservoir may run out of water

Mike Jenson / Merced Irrigation District
Mike Jenson / Merced Irrigation District

The Don Pedro reservoir, about 50 miles east of Modesto CA in the Central Valley, is at 8% capacity and if the water authority doesn’t find more water fast by drilling, 3,200 people could be without water by summer. Six new wells have produced no appreciable water. The area gets its water from the Merced River watershed. However the continuing California drought means little new water is coming this year.

Farmers are getting zero surface water deliveries this year. This means they either fallow their fields or use groundwater pumping. The community already has cut water use by a commendable 30%. That has now been raised to 50%. Residents are being given 5 gallon buckets. Fill the buckets up with water when getting shower water hot, turn off the water, then use the water in the bucket for the shower.

The water district may also be required to release water to aid downstream fish, a policy that is understandably a wee bit controversial in dire times like these.

“I think it’s horrible,” says Chuck Arndt. “It’s scary. Nature gave us this water. They’re not giving us any this year. What I think is criminal is all the water that has to be let out because of the fish.”

Few houseboats remain in the lake. Most have been temporarily placed in parking lots.

Also out on the lake are floating pumps that carry water to the Lake Don Pedro community.

“Our emergency floating pumps have another 50 feet below them,” says Kampa. “Once that gets exhausted, which right now we estimate to be sometime mid-summer, then it’s five miles to get to another location where the water exists.”

Almost certainly other towns in California are or will soon be facing severe water shortages. Big cities have more resources and have stockpiled water, but even they are facing mandatory rationing.


    • Unfortunetly they have little $$. Water flows hundreds of miles towards $$ out here, leaving it’s original source high and dry.

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