With precipitation from the last two storms falling throughout Northern California, it has been a much needed boost to reservoir levels throughout the region, which will help with water supplies for next year. In the past week, Shasta Reservoir on the Sacramento River has risen over 24 feet, the Feather River’s Oroville Reservoir more than 19 feet, New Bullards Bar Reservoir on the Yuba River almost 10 feet, Indian Valley Reservoir on Cache Creek almost 14 feet and the American River’s Folsom Reservoir almost eight feet. During the first two weeks of December, the increases in storage are even more impressive. Total increases in reservoir elevations since December 1 are as follows: almost 32 feet at Shasta, 36 feet at Oroville, more than 25 feet at New Bullards Bar, almost 19 feet at Indian Valley and more than 15 feet at Folsom.
After going so long without meaningful rainfall in this third year of California’s drought, the recent storms and the precipitation they have brought are a welcome change. But, while the rainfall and snow are much needed, the overall quantity of the precipitation as well as where it is falling has limited the impact it is having on the drought.
In the Sacramento Valley, water has been re-managed over the past several decades to provide essential pathways for spawning salmon and steelhead. Nearly every major watercourse in the Sacramento Valley has flow agreements that are designed to benefit salmon and steelhead, while balancing other uses of water for various beneficial purposes. Many of these agreements took decades of hard work by local and state leaders to develop and then implement.
The State Water Board on May 27, 2014 issued curtailment notices to all post-1914 water right holders in the Sacramento-San Joaquin watersheds based on the lack of available water supplies. In the last several weeks, the State Water Board has begun a modern, real-time, process to administer these water rights and California’s priority system, which allows more water to be stored in existing reservoirs so it will be available for various uses next year.