Lake Oroville

California's Lake Oroville is near its all-time low as flows on the Feather River have slowed to a trickle.

Not much surface water may be available in 2016

Lake Oroville is near it's all-time low since Oroville Dam was constructed Shasta Lake is about 28 percent of capacity Other California lakes are at or near record lows.

Early as it is in the season, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) says State Water Project (SWP) contractors could get 10 percent of their surface water allotment in 2016 if water conditions remain as they are today.

Predictions this early in the season tend not to mean much as final allocations in fickle weather years like this can change, particularly if El Niño comes through like forecasters are saying.

According to DWR, growers on the SWP received 20 percent of their allotted water in 2015, which is the second-lowest amount ever allocated. In 1991 farmers received no surface irrigation from the SWP. In 2014 SWP deliveries were five percent to all customers.

The last time growers received 100 percent of their promised water deliveries was 2006. Pumping restrictions in the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta cited to protect endangered and threatened fish species make it near-impossible for regulators to deliver full allocations of surface water to human beings.

There is a critical shortage of storage in the State Water Project (SWP), according to DWR. The agency may be forced to reallocate remaining supplies to meet critical human health and safety needs if winter precipitation does not come through.

Current storage in Lake Oroville is near its record low of 882,000 acre feet set in 1977. Storage in the SWP’s principle reservoir sits at above 925,000 acre feet, or 26 percent of its carrying capacity of 3.5 million acre feet.

Water conditions in California got so bad this fall officials had to install pumps in Folsom Reservoir to lift water for Sacramento residents as the lake level fell below “dead pool.” That’s the level at which previously installed water intakes are no longer under water. Folsom is part of the federal Central Valley Project (CVP).

Shasta Lake is the other major northern California reservoir watched by water managers and this year’s levels continue to fall as the rainy season gets under way. Dec. 1 storage in the CVP facility was just over 1.3 million acre feet, or about 28 percent of its capacity. That is still higher than the lake reached in 1977 when it fell to about 500,000 acre feet of total storage before winter rains began to fill the large reservoir.

San Luis Reservoir, a critical south-of-Delta pool for both the SWP and CVP, is at 19 percent of its 2 million acre-foot capacity, 32 percent of average for the date.

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