News Feature | February 6, 2019

Winter Brings A Year's Worth Of Water For 9 Million Californians

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

California may have a reputation for persistent drought and water scarcity, but already this year the state’s freshwater reserves are worth celebrating.

Storms in the beginning of January brought an influx of snow to the Sierra Nevada and heavy rains elsewhere in the state, boosting its water reservoirs exponentially.

Over the first three weeks of January, “47 key reservoirs that state water officials closely monitor added 580 billion gallons of water — as much as roughly 9 million people use in a year,” according to the Chico Enterprise-Record. “The combined storage in the reservoirs … has expanded 15.96 million acre feet on New Year’s Day to 17.74 million acre feet now. Each acre foot is enough water to flood an acre of land a foot deep, 325,851 gallons.”

The Sierra Nevada snowpack is at 114 percent of normal and almost all of the major reservoirs around the state are at or above their historical averages. This is an undoubtedly positive development for a state that has long struggled with water scarcity.

“That is really good news for California’s summer water outlook,” Danielle Venton, KQED Science’s editor, said in a report. “After the misery of a five-year drought we had recently, just getting anywhere near normal is cause for celebration for a lot of water managers and water agencies around the state.”

December, January, and February are typically California’s wettest months and the state is on track for water levels that are supposed to be average. That news is particularly exciting though, because water levels have been so far below average in recent years.

“We’re only about halfway through our three wettest months,” Chris Orrock, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Water Resources, told the Enterprise-Record at the time. “We have to wait and see what Mother Nature brings us for the rest of the winter. The only thing constant about California’s climate is that it’s so variable.”

To read more about California’s struggles with water supplies visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.