California reservoirs still suffering from drought

Water storage in California reservoirs,

Above: the status of the large reservoirs in California as of February 16, 2016, showing the current water levels and the historic average for the date. California Department of Water Resources.

In spite of significant rain over parts of California over the last six months all but one of 12 large reservoirs in the state are still storing water at levels below the historic average for the date. Folsom Lake has 117 percent of average while the other 11 have from 30 to 80 percent.

Precipitation predicted for Thursday in the Sierra Nevada Mountains should help a little, with some areas above 7,000 feet receiving a foot or more of snow.

snow Sierras 2-18-2016
Snow prediction Sierra Nevada Mountains, 0400 Feb. 17 through 1600 Feb. 18.

The photo below shows the extreme northern end of Trinity Lake on August 9, 2014 when it held about 40 percent of average. On February 16 of this year it was at 43 percent.

Trinity Lake drought
North end of Trinity Lake in northern California, August 9, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

It remains to be seen how the winter weather will affect the 2016 wildfire season. It is a factor of course, but more significant is the weather DURING the fire season. If it is hot, dry, and windy, there will be major fires.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

1 thought on “California reservoirs still suffering from drought”

  1. All but one or two of the reservoirs shown on the graphic receive the lions share of water from snow.

    Snow surveys in all of the important river drainages will continue into early April. Watermasters, reservoir managers, irrigation district managers and the like don’t forecast surface water volumes until after 1 April at the earliest. Forcasted volumes generally peak in June or July.

    Another quick but significant snow accumulation is forecasted for tonight- primarily in the the central if not the greater Sierra Nevada Mountains and elsewhere.

    The three river drainages I watch are roughly a buck and a quarter of normal tonight. That would be “snow water equivalent” percentage of recent, historical “normal”.

    Regardless, it will take more than one good snow year to make up for four consecutive years of “drought”.

    Bill’s last paragraph is right on. Fire season severity is not directly tied to how much water is in the reservoirs.

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