Kings River collects record runoff

Last winter’s storms lead to unprecedented amounts of snowmelt this year, surpassing the previous record amount of annual water runoff in ‘82-83

Kings River bridge on Ave 400 outside of Kingsburg. (Kenny Goodman)
Kings River bridge on Ave 400 outside of Kingsburg. (Kenny Goodman)
Darren Fraser
Published September 29, 2023  • 
3:30 pm

FRESNO COUNTY – This year’s winter storms resulted in a record runoff for Kings River.

According to a press release from the Kings River Water Association, the 2023-24 water year, which officially ends on Sept. 30, recorded a record annual water runoff of 4.5 million acre feet, eclipsing the previous record set in 1982-83. That year’s runoff was 4.47 million acre-feet.

“What makes this record all the more remarkable is that a quarter of the way through Water Year 2022-23, Central California appeared certain to be headed for a fourth consecutive drought year,” said Steve Haugen, the Kings River Water Association manager.

Haugen added that atmospheric rivers dumped so much snow in January, February and March that it was actually beneficial that April and May were relatively dry months. He said had those months recorded normal precipitation in the foothills and mountains, it could have led to possible flooding.

“There is no question that Pine Flat Reservoir did its flood control job,” Haugen said. He did say high flows downstream from Pine Flat did result in some localized flooding and erosion.

According to the press release, the peak release from Pine Flat this year was 13,371 cubic feet per second. On April 1, the Kings River watershed snow surveys recorded that the water content in the snowpack was 261% higher than average.


On Sept. 5, the National Weather Service issued a release that between December 2023 and February 2024, there is a 95% chance of an El Nino occurring; and there is a 66% chance it will be a strong El Nino, at that.

According to Michelle L’Heureux, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, historically stronger El Nino years have led to increased rainfall.

However, L’Heureux added that while El Nino years are wetter, this doesn’t always mean that storms will be more intense all across the state.

Darren Fraser