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California Reservoirs Begin To Get Back To Normal

March 18, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




From the LA Times:


A series of storms pushed California’s biggest reservoir past its historical average for mid-March this weekend and put the second largest one on track for doing the same by Monday afternoon, officials said.

Together the Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville reservoirs have the capacity to hold more than 8 million acre feet of water and after a wet weekend in Northern California, they were 79% and 70% full, respectively, by Monday morning, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

Some people have referred to the recent series of powerful storms that have dumped rain and snow on the Sierra as the “March Miracle.”

The storms filled Lake Shasta above its average for this time of year and by 4 p.m. Monday, Lake Oroville surpassed its historic average, said DWR spokesman Doug Carlson. Lake Shasta is the state’s largest reservoir.

“It’s happened a little quicker than I personally thought,” Carlson said. “It would appear the [seasonal storms] have really achieved what they historically do, which is deliver a lot of rainfall to the mountains.”


Neither reservoir has reached its historical average in nearly three years, data show.

“I don’t know if people here will be dancing in their cubicles when [Oroville] hits the historic average, but it will be the first time it’s done that for the duration of the drought. That is reason to be joyous,” Carlson said.

According to the National Weather Service, it rained nearly a foot in El Dorado County and more than nine inches in Shasta County between Friday and Monday mornings. Since March 1, the Shasta reservoir has received more than 16 inches of rain.

On March 6, Lake Oroville saw its biggest single-day rise in 12 years, DWR reported.

If the soggy month continues, both reservoirs could actually fill to the brim by April, officials say. Neither reservoir has been full since about the beginning of the drought, officials said.

The Shasta reservoir would need about 1 million acre feet more of rain to hit its capacity.


“It’s possible that it could fill if the wet pattern continues…it’s on track to at least get to average storage” for that time of year, said Shane Hunt, a spokesman with the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which monitors the Shasta reservoir.

After four years of drought, even hitting a 15-year historical average for a reservoir in California is a sign of progress, experts say.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s not a panacea. We’re not saved,” Hunt said. “We dug a pretty big hole in a lot of spots.”

Other reservoirs across the state are also doing well. The once-anemic Lake Folsom is now at 116% of historical average for the date and at 69% of total capacity.


In fact, rainfall since October had already been close to average before this month:




Most of California’s rain falls between October and March, and it now seems likely that there will be above average precipitation for the period this year.


As reported, Shasta and Oroville reservoir levels are now above normal for the time of year, although some of the others are a bit of a mixed bag.



  1. A C Osborn permalink
    March 18, 2016 6:14 pm

    The Climate Brigade will be so disappointed by this information, whereas the man in the street will be quite happy about it.

  2. markl permalink
    March 18, 2016 6:33 pm

    So yet another dire AGW prediction passes without being realized.

  3. Broadlands permalink
    March 18, 2016 8:38 pm

    California’s driest winter (DEC–FEB) was in 1977 (3.69 inches). It’s wettest winter was in 1969… 23.26 inches The 2016 winter ranked 47th with 12.23 inches.

  4. John F. Hultquist permalink
    March 19, 2016 1:01 am

    Darn. I was hoping the place would dry up and blow away.

  5. March 19, 2016 2:42 am

    Calling the next witness dr. Tim Flannery

  6. sarastro92 permalink
    March 19, 2016 3:43 pm

    The cyclical nature of California rainfall patterns are well known. Water management plans have been drawn up decades ago, but were opposed by an ugly coalition of anti-government libertarians, myopic private interests and Greenies. The State may get a reprieve this go ’round; but may not get off so easily in the future.

    The take home message is simple: Water shortages in California are ultimately caused by humans. We know what weather patterns can be expected. So any crisis is on us.

    • RAH permalink
      March 19, 2016 6:32 pm

      In the end there are just too many people there. Eventually there is going to be a deficit no matter how many reservoirs are built. The ground water continues decline and they have gotten all they’re going to get from surface sources that flow from out of state. So it seems to me that sooner or later it will be desalinate or depopulate.

  7. Broadlands permalink
    March 19, 2016 5:01 pm

    Another fact? The graph depicted above shows the history of October-February precipitation from 1896-2016 for California. What is doesn’t show, but might want to add? is that the long-term linear trend is essentially level…minus 0.09 inches per century. El-Nino runs the “show”?

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