Dry Year, Need More Water

The two methods first developed several decades ago to provide for adequate water storage and flood control for California was to build Shasta Dam much higher than it now is—and it was engineered for that height so could be easily raised—and build Auburn Dam, as we’ve posted previously.

Every dry year, as it appears is coming up (though the rain over the past week is sure helping) according to the Sacramento Bee; we remember the foresight of those who developed our water plan, as does Dan Walters, and the short sidedness of those who have failed to implement it.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“January through March in the Northern Sierra Nevada is likely to go down as the driest such period since California began surveying its mountain snowpack in the 1920s.

“On Thursday, the state Department of Water Resources conducted its final monthly snow survey of the winter, intended to measure snow depth and water content at their winter peak.

“This year’s peak is rather puny: The survey found the snowpack is just 52 percent of average statewide.

“The data also show that the northern Sierra, a region crucial to statewide water supplies, has seen only 5.5 inches of precipitation since Jan. 1. The previous low on record is 1923, which saw 8.4 inches of precipitation in the same three months.

“It is a gloomy end to a winter that started out bright. Storms in November and December delivered about 200 percent of average precipitation to the state. Then the tap went dry in January and February, normally the wettest months of the year.

“Thanks to November and December, most key storage reservoirs are near average levels. This includes the state’s two largest reservoirs: Lake Oroville on the Feather River is at 108 percent of average capacity for the date, while Lake Shasta on the Sacramento River is at 102 percent.

“Folsom Reservoir on the American River stood at 95 percent of average capacity on Thursday.

“The low snowpack, however, means reservoirs will not remain at these levels through summer.

“It’s shaping up to be a much drier year than anticipated, and that means we’ll likely have to draw down storage in key reservoirs,” said Terry Erlewine, general manager of the State Water Contractors.

An excerpt from Dan Walter’s column.

“The bad news is that a dry winter means the Sierra snowpack is only half of its statistical normal as the annual spring runoff begins.

“The good news is that we’re still living off the unusually wet winter we had two years ago and major reservoirs – Shasta, Trinity, Oroville and Folsom – on the Sacramento River and its tributaries, plus the off-stream San Luis Reservoir, have very healthy leftover supplies, thereby cushioning the effects of the current shortfall.

“That’s what dams and reservoirs are supposed do, in case anyone has forgotten why water users and taxpayers spent billions of dollars to construct them decades ago.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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