We know from last year’s winter weather in California not to get cocky and expect miracles.
The lens of history is clear: Mother Nature is fickle.
Halloween was just days away and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) was asking in a perceived hopeful tone on Twitter: “Has winter arrived in NorCal?”
The question came ahead of a forecasted winter storm and reports from a week earlier of rain, snow and chain controls on trans-Sierra highways.
Memo to MWD: We’re a long way off from thinking this drought thing is behind us, so let’s not start counting our chickens just yet.
MWD certainly has reason to hope, as do the rest of us that water year 2014-15 is not a repeat of the previous water year, and that ample rain and snow returns to California.
According to MWD’s website, reserve water levels in southern California are abysmally low. Welcome to the club! It’s not any better in the rest of the state.
Official figures show that Shasta Lake, the kingpin of the federal Central Valley Project, saw its first bump in storage in a very long time. After falling to within a breath of one million acre feet of total storage on Oct. 23, it appears a little runoff found the pond and bumped total storage to 1.1 million acre feet two days later.
According to the Bureau of Reclamation, which runs Shasta Dam and controls outflow into the Sacramento River, a little over 12,000 acre feet of storage was added in the late October storms.
While we’ll take it, the next two days saw reservoir levels give up almost half those gains.
For those of you who may not know, MWD is the gatekeeper of southern California’s water. It’s a consortium of 26 cities and water districts that provide drinking water to nearly 19 million people in six counties.
Their thirst for water is relentless though to their credit, the district not only made significant strides in the past 20 years to update infrastructure and find new ways to reuse water, but they did what Sacramento lawmakers have failed to do for decades: build more surface storage.
Some of MWD’s water comes from northern California via the State Water Project, so there’s little wonder in their interest in northern California storms.
While Shasta Lake may escape its all-time low of about 587,000 acre feet of storage that happened in the summer of 1977, it’s way too early to tell. Two storms do not a winter make.
Water conditions throughout the rest of the West are abysmal as well.
The big western lakes of Shasta, Oroville, Mead and Powell are shadows of their former self. All the water remaining in the first three would be sufficient to top off the fourth under current conditions.
That’s not good.
While hope is not a bad thing I’d encourage California’s southern residents not to bank on their northern California water supplies just yet.