Summary of Water Year

Though we still have some time before the official water year is over, this post from the California Water Blog gives us a real good summary of where we are at.

An excerpt.

Summary of conditions

March 2016 has been unusually wet, and quite a contrast to February.  The “Godzilla” El Nino this year has been a bit “Gonzo”, but overall has brought a welcome above average precipitation for northern California, after four solid drought years.  The unevenness of the precipitation is some concern, and the depth of remaining surface and subsurface storage drawdown from the drought remains sizable.

Annual precipitation and snowpack are now about average overall for California.  The largest reservoirs in northern California are in good shape, with sizable, about average, snowpacks waiting to trickle down in spring.  Overall, total surface storage in California is about 2.7 million acre-ft below average for this time of year (improved from an 8 maf surface storage deficit in October).  Groundwater will be recharging, as it should this time of year in most places, but groundwater is likely to remain drawn down in much of the southern Central Valley.

California remains in a drought, a bit.  So far, the much-hyped El Nino has brought us largely average precipitation and snowpack.  A huge improvement over the last few years, but not an excuse to forget the lessons of the drought so far.  And who knows what next year will bring.

Here are recent highlights, with links to the California Department of Water Resources’ California Data Exchange Center (CDEC) at

Reservoir and Groundwater Storage Conditions

Major reservoirs in northern California are mostly healthy this year, but substantially emptier south of the Delta.

California’s total reservoir storage remains about 2.7 maf (about 2.7 full Folsom reservoirs) less than average for this time of year.  This is a nice improvement from being 8 maf below average in October.  Groundwater statewide will be making some recovery but will be a long way from recovering from drought in many drier areas south of the Delta.

The drought by 2015 depleted total storage in California by about 22 maf cumulatively or nearly a year’s worth of water use in agriculture.  Storage is recovering during this wet season, but still has a good bit to go, probably 12-16 maf of drought storage drawdown remains, mostly from groundwater.

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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