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Mammoth Mountain received record snowfall in May 2019. Photo: Mammoth Mountain, Inc. California Reservoirs

Water Year 2020 Begins With Robust Reservoir Storage

Last winter was a bountiful one in terms of water supply for California, but it’s still too early to tell whether 2020 will be as generous.

The 2018-19 winter was one for the record books, with above-average precipitation. Snow continued to fall in late-spring, with several inches or more in the Sierra Nevada and the Southern California mountains.

Ski seasons were extended into May and June, delighting skiers and resort operators.

The snowfall, and a boost from late-season storms, increased the northern Sierra snowpack in May 2019, which was “atypical,” according to Alexi Schnell, water resources specialist with the San Diego County Water Authority.

The statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack was 164% of normal, with the northern Sierra at 172% of normal on May 23, 2019.

Major California Reservoirs Above Historical Average on November 8, 2019

Most major California reservoirs are above their historical averages as of November 8, 2019. (Graphic: California DWR)

Water Year 2020 begins with robust reservoir storage

The 2019 water year (October 1 – September 30) pushed snowpack levels well-above average and swelled major reservoirs to above-average. There were more than 30 atmospheric rivers, with many making landfall in Northern California. The state’s snowpack on April 1 was 175% of average.

The California Department of Water Resources said that makes a great start to 2020.

“We start the new water year in a good place,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the DWR. “However, we all know too well that California’s weather and precipitation are highly variable. What we have today could be gone tomorrow.”

Above average rainfall in San Diego

While the biggest gains in precipitation over the past year were in Northern California, the San Diego region also benefited. Water Year 2019 ended with the region at 125% of average rainfall at Lindbergh Field. The rainfall helped increase supplies in regional reservoirs.

Schnell cautioned that the climatological cycle in California can bring several consecutive years of drought, like the 2015-17 period, which prompted mandatory water-use reductions statewide.

Above-average temperatures in California in 2019

NOAA reported on November 6 that California experienced above-average to much-above-average temperatures from January through October 2019. The average U.S. temperature during that same period was 55.5°F, (0.5 of a degree above 20th-century average) “ranking in the warmest third of the record,” according to NOAA.

NOAA reported that California has had above-to much-above-average temperatures from January to October 2019.

NOAA reported that California has had above-to much-above-average temperatures from January to October 2019. (Graphic: NOAA)

Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, or CW3E, just released an analysis that calculated the odds of water year 2020 reaching 100% of water year normal precipitation totals. The odds range from 20 to 40% of the Southwest reaching 100% of water year normal precipitation.

Odds of reaching normal precipitation for Water Year 2020. (Graphic: CW3E, Scripps, UC San Diego)

National Weather Service seasonal outlook for precipitation

The three-month seasonal precipitation outlook for November-December-January by the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center shows below-normal to normal precipitation in Central to Northern California and equal chances of below, near- or above-normal in southern California and much of the Southwest.

The November-December-January precipitation outlook from the National Weather Service.

The November-December-January precipitation outlook from the National Weather Service. (Graphic: NWS/NOAA)

“There will always be fluctuations based on weather and other factors, but the San Diego region continues to embrace water-use efficiency,” said Schnell. “The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies continue to increase San Diego County’s water supply reliability through supply diversification to provide a safe, reliable water supply to the region.”

Winter Floods Are Coming: Here’s How to ‘Be Flood Ready’

SACRAMENTO — The California Department of Water Resources is encouraging Californians to prepare for a wide variety of potential flooding in the coming months, as the winter storm season quickly approaches.

More than seven million Californians in rural communities, urban areas and along the coast are at risk of flooding. Flooding can occur throughout the state and Californians need to be aware and understand the potential risks of flooding in their communities, the department said in a recent press release.

Santa Barbara Water Agencies Say No to State Water Tunnel Project

Local water agencies aren’t buying into the new version of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta “twin tunnels” project, and Santa Barbara County members of the State Water Project voted Thursday to opt out entirely.

The California Department of Water Resources’ Cal Waterfix project, also known as the twin tunnels, aimed to increase State Water Project reliability by building two 40-foot-diameter tunnels to move water under the Delta instead of through it.

DWR Celebrates The Completion Of Tidal Habitat Restoration In The Delta

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) gathered with its partners and contractors Oct.15 to celebrate the completion of the 460-acre tidal wetland known as Tule Red in the Suisun Marsh.

More than 100 attendees watched as a giant excavator perched on top of a 200-foot wide levee removed the earth separating the high tides of Grizzly Bay from the interior channels. The crowd cheered as tides began flowing over the breached levee. With the site opened to the daily tides, this ideal location along the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area will provide much needed habitat to benefit endangered fish and wildlife species.

California’s Delta Smelt Are Dying: How This Affects The State’s Water

The Delta smelt is such a small and translucent fish that it often disappears from view when it swims in the turbid waters of its home in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

However, it’s also been disappearing from the Delta entirely.

“The Delta smelt has gone from being one of the more abundant fish in the Delta to being just on the verge of extinction today,” Peter Moyle, an Emeritus Professor of Fish Biology at UC Davis, said.

Supervisors Vote Wednesday on Withdrawing County as Groundwater Sustainability Agency for Borrego Valley Groundwater Basin

Borrego Springs, Calif. – Faced with a state mandate to reduce water use by 75 percent after years over over-pumping groundwater, major water users in Borrego Springs have submitted a stipulated agreement for reducing the desert community’s water use by an estimated 75 percent. On Wednesday, San Diego County Supervisors will vote on withdrawing as a groundwater sustainability agency for the Borrego Valley Groundwater Basin, with a goal toward transitioning into water management.

California Water

October kicks off a new water year for California and the state has a considerably more water storage than last year.

Statewide reservoir water storage is 128% of average. That amounts to about 29.7 million acre-feet of water for California, according to the Department of Water Resources.

It’s due to that marathon wet winter in 2017 that pounded the state with rain and snow. The 2018 water year was about average, which actually built up the surplus.

Of course that’s good news for California agriculture producers.

 

Stored Water Provides Strong Start to Water Year 2020

A year ago, at the start of Water Year (WY) 2019 water storage in the State Water Project’s (SWP) largest reservoir, Lake Oroville, was at just 62 percent of average. Although many of the state’s other large reservoirs were posting better averages, water managers and state and federal agency staff were concerned that California may be headed into another drought.

Whereas the next California drought is not a matter of “if” but rather “when,” the concerns of a year ago have been put to rest for the short-term. California began its WY 2020 on Tuesday with significantly more water in storage than the previous year thanks to above-average snow and precipitation.

New Water Year Kicks Off With Surplus: California Has Greater Reservoir Storage Than Last Year

California’s water year starts with a large increase in reservoir storage. Here’s why

California is enjoying an increase in average water reserves due to increases in snowfall and precipitation, according to the Department of Water Resources.

Statewide, the reservoir is at 128 percent of average, which is about 29.7 million acre-feet. Some of the biggest increases include Lake Oroville, which is currently at 102 percent of its average, compared to 62 percent this time last year; Shasta Lake is at 126 percent (88 percent in 2018) and San Luis Reservoir is at 132 percent (117 percent last year).