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Sonoma County Flirts With Drought as Reservoirs Recede in Water-Poor Winter

About a mile of bare, cracked earth now lies like a desertscape between the boat ramp at the north end of Lake Mendocino and the water’s edge of a diminished reservoir that helps provide water for 600,000 Sonoma and Marin County residents.

The human-made lake near Ukiah is about 30 feet lower than it was at this time last year, and Nick Malasavage, an Army Corps of Engineers official who oversees operations at the reservoir, said the scene is “pretty jarring.”

Controlled Transfer of Water from Sweetwater Authority’s Loveland Reservoir Begins Today

Chula Vista, Calif. – In order to secure additional water sources for our customers, Sweetwater Authority initiated a controlled transfer of water from its two reservoirs on Monday, January 11, 2021.

Lake Hodges Water Levels Dry Up Prospects for Grebes

For years, pairs of grebes would zoom across the water at Lake Hodges in a dazzling mating dance, and then build their nests on mats of dried brush suspended above the waterline.

Drought Keeps Lake Mead Levels Low, But There is Plenty of Winter Left

Last week’s storm did little to ease the drought in Arizona’s reservoirs. But there’s still plenty of winter left.

The Bureau of Reclamation makes two-year projections, based on weather and water levels in Colorado River reservoirs, and its most recent projections have been dire.

That could set the stage for an Arizona water shortage in 2022. Snowpack in the mountains is now 69% of normal, but Patti Aaron, a spokeswoman for the bureau, says a little snow could go a long way.

State Water Officials say First Snow Survey Set for December 30th

State water officials say the first manual snow survey of the new season is set for December 30th. The Department of Water Resources is hoping for a wet December after seeing practically no rain in the first two months of the new water year. California recorded zero rain in October, and only 53% of the average rainfall in November.

Most of the state’s largest reservoirs are running well below their historic averages for December 1st. Lake Shasta at 75% capacity was 119% of its average this time last year. Lake Oroville at 61% capacity is down from 90% one year ago.

A happy Lake Jennings angler shows off his rainbow trout prize during the fall season opening weekend. Photo: Lake Jennings trout season

Lake Jennings Trout Season Opening A Success

Lake Jennings, the Helix Water District reservoir in Lakeside, is one of San Diego County’s hot spots for trout fishing, ranked second in the county by SDFish.com. The 2020 fall trout fishing season got underway on November 20, with enthusiastic anglers enjoying safe outdoor recreation with pandemic precautions in place.

“It’s one of those family activities people can do right now,” said Kira Haley, Helix Water District recreation manager. “Kids need to get outside and spend time in the fresh air. It was a big weekend; it was really fun.”

Through the opening weekend, Lake Jennings issued 931 permits, including 161 for children, an increase of 10% over 2019.

Showing off a string of rainbow trout along with the beautiful Lake Jennings scenery. Photo: Lake Jennings trout season

Showing off a string of rainbow trout along with the beautiful Lake Jennings scenery. Photo: Lake Jennings

Haley said due to safety measures, the lake staff worked hard to keep lines to a minimum.

“We are only allowing one family into the bait and tackle shop at a time,” said Haley. “One of the first things we did was get a portable register. It allows us to go up and down the line of people selling permits to those who don’t need to come into the store itself.”

Trout arrived last week from Thatcher, Idaho. The 2,500 pounds of fish travel 913 miles in an oxygenated truck to stock the lake.

“The lake is so clear you can see the fish,” she said. “A lot of our fishermen are sight fishing. They can follow a school around the lake and cast before they get there. It becomes more of an exercise activity too.”

Fishing and social distancing go together

Catfish were also biting. This impressive 38-pound catfish was safely released back into the lake. Photo: Lake Jennings

Catfish were also biting. This impressive 38-pound catfish was safely released back into the lake. Photo: Lake Jennings

Fishing is a natural social distancing activity.

“We have five miles of shoreline there’s plenty of space to spread out,” said Haley. “When you’re working with hooks and big fishing poles, you want to stay away from other people.”

Haley praised visitors for their compliance with all safety precautions, which have been in place since July.

“People are being respectful,” she said. “They’re wearing their masks, which makes us so happy. This is allowing us to stay in business and stay in compliance.”

She said all boats, lifejackets and seat cushions are disinfected after every use. Haley said only EPA approved disinfectants are used around the lake.

The lake’s 97 campground spaces are currently booked three weeks in advance for weekend dates.

Nothing tastes quite as good as freshly caught fish prepared on the grill at Lake Jennings. Photo: Lake Jennings

Nothing tastes quite as good as freshly caught fish prepared on the grill at Lake Jennings. Photo: Lake Jennings

The lake remains open for activities, including nature walks and birding from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Night fishing ended November 20 due to California’s 10 p.m. curfew order.  Haley said night fishing might return on a limited basis until 9 p.m. on future weekends. Check the lake’s website for the latest information.

Lake Jennings is more than just a great fishing spot. The lake is also where the Helix Water District stores imported water from the Colorado River and Northern California and local water from Lake Cuyamaca and El Capitan Reservoir to provide safe, reliable water to East County residents.

Suez to Improve Rainbow Tank Staircases

Suez Water Technologies and Solutions will install additional tank fall protection improvements at Rainbow Municipal Water District reservoirs.

Rainbow’s board voted 4-1, with Helene Brazier casting the dissenting vote, Aug. 25, to approve a change order to the 2018 contract.

“This adds some additional safety enhancements for our steel reservoirs,” Tom Kennedy, general manager of Rainbow, said.

Climate Change Likely to Keep Hammering Colorado River’s Biggest Reservoirs, Model Shows

The Colorado River’s largest reservoirs are expected to keep struggling over the next five years due to climate change, according to the federal agency that oversees them.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s new modeling projections, which include this year’s record-breaking heat and dryness in some parts of the southwestern watershed, show an increasing likelihood of an official shortage declaration before 2026.

If dry conditions like the Colorado River Basin has seen since 2000 persist, the agency’s model shows an almost 80% chance of seeing an official shortage declaration by 2025. The chance of seeing the reservoir drop to a critically low level is about 20% in that same time period.

San Diegans #AskAnExpert Reservoir Recreation Questions

Reservoir Keeper Viviana Castellon shared her expertise with citizens during the City of San Diego’s #AskAnExpert series on Instagram as part of the City’s community outreach to citizens. The City regularly offers the opportunity for the public to ask employees about its services including parks, libraries, streets, and water.

Reservoir Keeper Viviana Castellon shared her expertise with citizens as part of the City’s #AskAnExpert series on Instagram. Photo: City of San Diego/Instagram

San Diegans #AskAnExpert Reservoir Recreation Questions

Reservoir Keeper Viviana Castellon shared her expertise with citizens during the City of San Diego’s #AskAnExpert series on Instagram as part of the City’s community outreach to citizens. The City regularly offers the opportunity for the public to ask employees about its services including parks, libraries, streets, and water.

“We find that it’s a great way to get general information about City services to the public,” said Arian Collins, public information officer with the San Diego Public Utilities Department.

Castellon answered several questions about the recreation offered at the City’s lakes and reservoirs.

Can you rent boats at City of San Diego reservoirs?

Yes, the reservoirs do have boat rentals through the concessionaires. You can view the hours of operation and rentals fees online.

Social media outreach gives City of San Diego residents access to experts like Reservoir Keeper Viviana Castellano. Photo: City of San Diego/Instagram

Social media outreach gives City of San Diego residents access to experts like Reservoir Keeper Viviana Castellano. Photo: City of San Diego/Instagram

Is stand-up paddleboarding allowed at any City of San Diego reservoir?

Yes, Hodges Reservoir offers stand-up paddleboarding on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from the beginning of February through the end of October.

Can you swim at City of San Diego reservoirs?

No. What are commonly referred to as the San Diego City lakes are actually impounding reservoirs that are part of the City’s municipal water-supply system. The State Water Resources Control Board approves the different recreational activities that can occur on our reservoirs and swimming is not included in our current domestic water supply recreational permit.

Can you water ski at the City of San Diego reservoirs?

Yes, San Vicente Reservoir offers water-skiing and wakeboarding from May through October Thursday through Sunday.

Residents who would like to keep up with the latest information about the City’s reservoirs and lakes as well as other City of San Diego services can learn more at the City of San Diego website, as well as follow the City’s Instagram account for more #AskAnExpert opportunities.