As incredible as it may seem, two months ago, the storage at Lake Kaweah was just below 170,000 acre-feet and still looked close to full. But in the past 60 days, all that precious water went down the drainage to its rightful owners — the downstream users under the auspices of the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District.
As of Thursday, Aug. 9, the storage in Lake Kaweah had dipped to less than 20,000 acre feet. At the current outflow levels of 108 cubic feet per second and a mean inflow of 44 cubic feet per second, the lake surface elevation is dropping at a rate of .09 feet every 24 hours.
Without having benefit of the precise projections, the minimum pool will be reached this month. That minimum pool of 15,000 acre-feet is mandated to be maintained to sustain the basin’s aquatic species.
It’s not atypical to reach the minimum pool in August. On August 13, 2016, the pool at Lake Kaweah was near the exact storage it is today. So what does reaching the minimum pool mean?
It means from here on until the area receives some appreciable precipitation, farmers who depend on water from the Kaweah drainage must utilize any storage they might have access to and also groundwater that is available in existing wells. If the groundwater is used for extended
periods that spells trouble for farmers who also saw their surface water supplies cut again in 2018.
But there is a silver lining to a minimum pool, at least for those who recreate at Lake Kaweah. All seasonal hiking, biking, running, dog walking, and equestrian trails commonly used during fall and winter are now open and accessible.
More than 70 sites at Horse Creek Campground, including the popular horse camp, are now available. Only a handful of campsites in the back near the highway remain closed because they are so dry they present an extreme fire danger.
The first nine holes of the new disk golf course are now complete and expected to be open for play before the end of 2018. If you haven’t trekked around the lake bottom since last year or ever, now is the time of year to check out areas that are inaccessible during high water levels.
There’s a whole new world down there just waiting to be explored. Day-use permits are available at most entrances; annual passes are available at the Lemon Hill Visitor Center.