More than 30 atmospheric rivers pummeled Northern California this spring, leading to a snowpack that reached 175% of average in April. This led to a boon for water storage as the state’s 2020 water year began Tuesday. According to the Department of Water Resources (DWR), reservoirs across the state are now at 128% of normal.
“The significant rainfall and snowpack made for a great water year in 2019,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth in a new release. “We start the new year in a good place.”
Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s largest reservoir, is nearly double its level from last year, at 102% of average. Shasta Lake, the Central Valley Project’s largest reservoir, is at 126% of average.
Despite the abundance in 2019, State Water Project contractors received 75% of the requested supplies. Westlands Water District General Manager Tom Birmingham was frustrated the allocations never reached the full 100%. The district also points out that the 75% allocation did not come until July. Many of its growers had based their plantings for the year on the initial 35% allocation in March.
While it may not change allocations, modernizing the State Water Project infrastructure would make the water conveyance more efficient, losing less to leakage. This is at the top of the list for DWR’s latest strategic plan update, as Nemeth presented to the Water Commission last month. She also noted the need for professionalism and how taxing it can be to work on California water issues for the state.
“The work that we do can be rather intense,” she said. “There are conflicting objectives at times, and people are very passionate.”
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