California’s two largest reservoirs are at ‘critically low’ levels

At the time of year when California’s water reserves should be at their highest, the state’s two largest reservoirs have fallen to extremely low levels – a stark prospect for the hotter and drier months to come.

Lake Shasta, 1,000 feet above sea level when it was filled to the brim, was less than half its usual level in early May – the driest this time of year since records began. The record first began in 1976. Lake Oroville, the largest reservoir in the State’s Water Project, an approximately 700-mile lifeline that pumps and ferries water to Southern California, is currently at 55% of its total capacity.

In the latest U.S. Drought Watch report, officials described both reservoir conditions as “extremely low” as summer entered. Other water officials have in recent days called it “the worst drought in the history of the State Water Project.”

This latest reservoir assessment is yet another wake-up call that California – along with much of the West – is experiencing an arid and challenging summer. Millions of residents across Southern California are facing the harshest water restrictions ever starting June 1.

Along the Colorado River, projections show that the nation’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are so severely depleted that there is a potential for greater water cuts in 2023 for Arizona, Nevada and Mexico. – and at some point California.

Just last week, boaters in Lake Mead stumbled across a crate containing human remains – evidence of a murder that had been hidden for decades by higher water levels. More human remains were discovered at the lake on Saturday, police said.

Investigators said there was no connection to the first case and no foul play was suspected.

Authorities hope to uncover more relics as the lake bottom becomes more exposed.

So far this year, California has experienced its driest January, February and March on record. The ice sheet – an important water “bank” for the state as the summer approaches – has melted much faster than expected due to warmer-than-average temperatures. (Snowmelt typically accounts for nearly a third of California’s water supply and feeds large reservoirs like Shasta during the driest months of the year.)

Records continued to be broken on the first day of April, when the annual amount of water stored in the ice sheet became one of the ten most catastrophic in recorded history.

Now looking at the May numbers, California state climatologist Mike Anderson says there’s little chance of increasing reservoir levels.

“Reservoir capacity statewide has increased at a slower-than-normal rate so far this year,” he noted in a hydrological update released Friday with the forecasting team at the California Department of Water Resources. due to limited storms and associated currents. “Flows and groundwater are also below average in most states. … As May continues, flows will decrease rapidly. “

Additional heat waves “will determine how quickly the landscape withers,” he added.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-05-09/drought-california-oroville-shasta-reservoirs-critically-low California’s two largest reservoirs are at ‘critically low’ levels

Edmund DeMarche

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