tldr: Final measurements place 2016 as a Below Normal water year for the SFAR.

2016 Final Water Year Determination – South Fork of the American River

With the end of September also comes the end of the 2015-2016 California water year. Measurements for the Full Natural Flow for the American River at Folsom as measured by the Department of Water Resources puts the South Fork of the American River as having had a Below Normal water year.

Actual versus Forecasted

If you remember the final May Forecast, we had been expecting an Above Normal water year with 2,850 thousand acre-feet. The final measurements place us as having received 2,595 thousand acre-feet. While the forecast was off by just 9%, that small change has us slipping out of Above Normal and into Below Normal by a slim, but no less meaningful, 5 thousand acre-feet of water

(for point of reference that’s 1.6 billion gallons of water. Or more literally a 1 acre swimming pool just under a mile (0.95 miles) deep.)

What does Below Normal Change?

campers white water rafting in california at summer campHappily not much at this point in time. Obviously we’ve got a little less water than we’d like to have. But as far as white water rafting is concerned, this will have little practical impact on river rafting on the South Fork of the American River.

October’s minimums are based on the final forecast, so October will continue to operate as if we were in an Above Normal year. November through the start of February will still have guaranteed raftable flow on Saturdays and Sundays, but we’ll see minimums of 1300 cfs versus 1500 cfs.

Happily, the classification as Below Normal versus Above Normal does not have any impact on future year designations (unlike Dry or Critical Dry classifications which can throw a year into a Super Dry classification).

October Flows

  • Mondays & Fridays: 1,300 cfs 9am-12pm
  • Saturdays & Sundays: 1,500 cfs 9am-12pm
  • Minimum Fish Flow: 250 cfs
  • No guaranteed raftable flows Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

November through February Flows

  • Saturdays & Sundays: 1,300 cfs 9am-12pm
  • Minimum Flow: 200 cfs
  • No guaranteed raftable flows Monday-Friday

Note: February flows will be based on Below Normal levels until the first 2017 Water Year Forecast (Bulletin 120) is released around February 7th.

Related Links and References