Latest storms increased water levels at CA reservoirs, but officials say conservation still needed

ByCarlos Granda and Grace Manthey KABC logo
Friday, January 13, 2023
A look at water levels at California's reservoirs after recent storms
California has seen historic storms over the last few weeks. The Sierras were pounded with several feet of snow, and large swaths of the state saw severe flooding.

California has seen historic storms over the last few weeks. The Sierras were pounded with several feet of snow, and large swaths of the state saw severe flooding.

Despite the struggles with flooding, state officials say there is good news: drought and water storage conditions are improving.

"From a statewide perspective, the overall statewide reservoir storage is about 84% of historical average, reported out yesterday it was at 81% of average. So again, these storms are continuing across the state to help with our reservoir storage levels," said Molly White with the California Department Of Water Resources.

The two largest reservoirs, Shasta and Oroville, are up in the northern part of the state and that's where the storms hit hardest.

On Tuesday, they rose to 70% and 88% of historical levels. Just a month ago, the levels were only about 55% for this time of year.

'Extreme' drought nearly eliminated in California in wake of storms caused by atmospheric rivers

"Extreme" drought, the second-highest level of drought, has been nearly eliminated in the state of California in the wake of recent storms.

"So each day we are creeping closer to average conditions," said White.

Here in Southern California, the reservoirs tend to work a little bit differently.

Go to Pyramid Lake and you might be wondering why the levels don't seem to be increasing. That's because these reservoirs are really built to hold the water before it's distributed.

"These are really regulating reservoirs that we typically keep pretty stable throughout the year... So they'll fluctuate a little bit, but the purpose of those are just a little bit different. They're helping to sustain the system in our water deliveries whereas, Oroville, our largest reservoir up north, that's a multi-purpose reservoir for your water supply, flood control, as well as other environmental requirements," White said.

California snowpack now more than 200 percent above normal

The powerful winter storm is helping to build up the crucial snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

The three main reservoirs in our area are actually pretty close to historical levels, very close to 100%. Castaic, for example, is up to 62% and some of that is because of retrofit work done in 2021.

"We did perform some seismic retrofit work, so did draw down that lake to manage through that work. So with these increased storms that we've seen and flows, we've been able to put some additional water down in Castaic," White added.

Officials warn residents that despite the rain, water conservation is still important.

"It's just really important to remember that we are in a continued drought emergency. We're kind of dealing with this extreme flood during an extreme drought. And so we're of course encouraging Californians to continue to conserve water and make conservation a way of life," said Ryan Endean, also with the state's Department of Water Resources.