For those keeping an eye on the drought they know we have hit a dreaded dry spell.

So why are officials letting water out of Folsom lake to flow into the ocean?

It comes down to a rule created years ago, that doesn't take into account improvements at the dam and improvements in weather forecasting

Even though much of the lake bed remains exposed, the lake level is actually slightly higher than the legal limit.

Although the lake is just 62 percent full, operators of the dam have begun taking steps to make sure it doesn't go any higher.

Last night for the first time since the start of winter, the Bureau of Reclamation began releasing more water than is coming in.

Sacramento's near-catastrophic flooding 30 years ago this month led to strict limits on how high Folsom Lake can be allowed to rise in the winter and spring.

The general manager of the San Juan Water District, which serves 160-thousand customers from Folsom Lake, pleaded unsuccessfully with state regulators last week to lift water restrictions at least while lake water is being dumped.

"Right now it is very difficult to ask customers to conserve water when they are releasing huge amounts of water out of Folsom Dam at this point. So effectively, they're not using water to let it flow out to the ocean," said Shauna Lorance with the water district

Fortunately, a 900-million dollar auxiliary spillway that would allow water to be released more quickly is nearing completion-- and the project will likely lead to more liberal flood control requirements.

The winter lake level could be dictated more by the weather forecast than some chart drafted 30 years ago.