Water allocations rise along with reservoir levels

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Lake Shasta
Lake Shasta

SACRAMENTO — March storms have continued to fill reservoirs and has led the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to boost its water delivery estimate for the year. Most recipients will receive 45 percent of their requests for the calendar year.

The DWR had initially expected to allocate about 10 percent of requests in December. As the reservoir levels have risen so has the allocation.

Snow and rain returned in March to boost the state’s two largest reservoirs – Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville – to slightly above their historic levels for the date.

Folsom Lake, near Sacramento, has risen to 70 percent of its 977,000 acre-foot capacity, 117 percent of historical average for the date, and has had to make flood control releases to retain space for heavy inflow.

While California is on track to end the winter season with near-average conditions, water officials warn that one such season won’t compensate for four years of drought.

While Shasta Lake and Lake Orville were at or near their historical averages, other reservoirs have yet to rebound from the prolonged drought.

San Luis Reservoir, a critical south-of-Delta pool, was on at 49 percent of its 2 million acre-foot capacity and just 55 percent of average storage for the date. New Melones is at 23 percent of normal, Don Pedro is at 54 percent. Pine Flat, south of Fresno and and Castaic in the southern California are both at less 35 percent of normal for the year. Even Trinity reservoir, near Redding is at 46 percent of normal.

Groundwater aquifers also recharge much more slowly than surface reservoirs, with many in the Central Valley still at record levels.

“February reminded us how quickly California’s weather can turn from wet to dry,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin in a press release. “The lesson of this drought is that we all need to make daily conservation a way of life.”

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