Shasta Dam
Water storage at California reservoirs like Shasta Lake improved with late-season rain and snow.

California gets one more chance to store more water

As I sit here the view from my window is wet. Rain runs off the roof into the parking lot below. City streets aren’t just wet; they’re flooded in places.

We haven’t seen much rain in California the last several years. While the last month reminded us that the rain can simply “shut off” mid-season, much like it did after December 2014, it’s also a reminder that conditions can flip.

The good news is our reservoirs are benefitting from the rain and snow. Mammoth Mountain, a popular ski resort in the Eastern Sierra, has seen 300 inches of snow this season. Here’s to hoping for another 300 in the next couple months. It can happen.

While the water from that snowpack will wind up in Los Angeles, rain and snow over the watershed that feeds Shasta Lake pushed storage in the reservoir as of 9 a.m., March 7 to three million acre feet of storage. There hasn’t been this much water behind Shasta Dam since spring, 2013.

Sierra snowfall and lower-elevation rains are adding to reservoirs that nearly dried up just a few months ago.

Storage behind Friant Dam (Millerton Lake) is up over 70,000 acre feet in storage, or nearly 25 feet in elevation in the last month – and that was a dry and warm month by all standards. In pretty much every case, the additional storage in these reservoirs was boosted within the last couple weeks.

The latest storms put Shasta, which feeds the Sacramento River, at about 66 percent of capacity and Millerton, which feeds the San Joaquin River and the Friant Kern Canal at about 56 percent of capacity.

In that same month the state squirreled away about 176,000 acre feet into San Luis Reservoir. That puts the facility at about 45 percent of capacity. The reservoir would be much closer to full, if not there, had the state done the responsible thing and pumped more water when it was available, rather than allowing it to be wasted through excessive Delta flows.

While we’re definitely not out of the woods on this one, and likely won’t be even with a March miracle, signs look hopeful that maybe, just maybe, growers could see some irrigation water this season.

TAGS: Legislative
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