What a difference a year makes.
Federal water storage among California’s Central Valley Project (CVP) reservoirs started the 2017 water year with 8.9 million acre feet, nearly twice held in the same six key reservoirs scattered about the state a year earlier.
This is 145 percent of the 15-year average carryover of 6.2 million acre feet, still a “safe level” with respect to flood control or the possibility of a dry winter, according to David Murillo, regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
On average, the reservoirs held 75 percent of their capacity on Oct. 1 with New Melones near Sonora with the most capacity at 84 percent.
Shasta Lake, the largest and perhaps most critical to the entire CVP, held 3.4 million acre feet (74 percent capacity) behind the dam to start the new water year.
Each year the Bureau of Reclamation announces results of its water storage balancing act. In years past, it truly has been a balancing act as regulators were perhaps more concerned with threading a needle not knowing whether drought would claim the lakes like in recent years, or an epic winter like last year would create flood control issues.
All that is different now as laws like the CVP Improvement Act and a host of biological opinions unfazed by human needs has changed how these reservoirs are managed.
These are not the only reservoirs in California. The state has its own State Water Project with 34 storage facilities, serving about 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland and 25 million residents.
While the CVP looks to be in good shape in the short term if drought returns, attention needs to remain on Lake Oroville and the State Water Project as Oroville’s capacity nears 60 percent in the wake of what could have been the catastrophic failure of the dam in early February.
Repairs continue on the main Lake Oroville spillway, a mile-long ribbon of concrete that collapsed earlier this yea. This set in motion a series of events that will long live in the memories of Sacramento Valley residents.
We can hope that the forthcoming winter is at least normal, and lakes can return to capacity next year so farmers can have something unseen in decades – two consecutive years of full irrigation allotments.