Storm systems that came through California over the past few weeks will need to continue in order to offset the state’s water storage deficit. Figures from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) illustrate vast improvements in the state’s snowpack. As of January 6, the California snowpack was 144 percent of the average with an average snow water equivalent of 16 inches. A month prior, snow levels were just 15 percent of average. Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition, Mike Wade said the first three months of the water year “have been terrific.” However, several more storm systems are needed to bring water supplies back into balance.
“The problem is we’re on the heels of one of the driest years on record and our reservoir storage is very low,” said Wade. “At the same time we’ve received this huge influx of rain and snow, we’re still probably 25 to 50 percent below normal for reservoir storage throughout the state. So, we’ve got an empty bucket we’re trying to fill.”
DWR readings illustrate the type of water storage deficit the state is currently facing. Of California’s major reservoirs, only Millerton, Folsom, and Perris have water levels above their historical average for this point in the year. Shasta, San Luis, Trinity, and McClure were all approximately half of the average as of January 6. The potential for more water storage has been an ongoing discussion in California. Atmospheric river events like the ones that recently covered California are becoming more common, as are longer periods of drought conditions. Wade expects overall weather patterns to fluctuate between extremely dry and extremely wet, further highlighting the need for appropriate water management approaches.
“I think a lot of precipitation in a short period of time is certainly an argument for more storage and capturing the water when its available to use in the years when its dry,” Wade noted. “We’re seeing wetter wet years and we’re seeing drier dry years. The way to get through that is with storage and saving water to have it when its dry again.”