Reservoirs: It's all downhill from here

The two big Northern California reservoirs, Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville, have reached their spring peak capacity, and will now lose water each day until there are major storms in the fall to winter.

Some of the water loss is evaporation, some is for power generation, and some is for water commitments to agriculture and the environment.

The fact remains there is very little snow melt potential to fill the reservoirs and we are well below the spring peak of 2013. A year ago there was a little more than three million acre-feet of water in Lake Oroville, for example. This year, there is a little under two million acre feet. In other words, we are starting the long hot spring, summer and early fall with more than one million acre feet less in the reservoir.

The situation is very similar for Lake Shasta.

This sets up the ultimate make-it, or break-it rainy season for 2014-15 because in January 2014, we were coming dangerously close to the point of having to make drastic major cuts to water use to get us through the summer. Fortunately, there was enough rain and snow to raise the lakes to over 50 percent capacity, but the margin is much smaller now. If El Nino is a bust, or next winter is dry, we simply are running out of a buffer to prevent the worst-case scenario plans from being enacted. California is in a precarious position with water storage this year, and we need to conserve what we have, and hope there is much more to come.


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