As we move through the middle of summer, now is a good time to think about the important role of surface storage in Northern California and the longer-term solutions that will help California during dry years. To be sure, California currently has 39 million people and a spectacular landscape supporting various other species–all of which depend upon a managed water system to help provide drinking water and other domestic uses, the most diverse and high quality food grown anywhere in the world, the cold water and habitat for fish, and habitat for birds along the Pacific Flyway.
Existing Reservoirs Are Full
With respect to existing storage, we had good snowpack in Northern California this year, which, coupled with rain at lower elevations, led to Northern California reservoirs filling this year for the first time in five years. Several major reservoirs even spilled earlier this year. As a result, Lake Shasta is still at 108% of historical average, Lake Oroville is 101% and Folsom Lake is 87% as shown on the plot below. This was the first time in five years we had the benefit of full reservoirs in Northern California.
Proposed Reservoirs Add Increased Value and Public Benefits.
If Sites Reservoir were online the past several years, the California Department of Water Resources has estimated that it would have provided for more than 1 million acre-feet of stored water in Northern California during both 2015 and 2016.