RELIEF IN SITES?
Here’s a look at the status of California’s reservoirs during another drought:
There has not been much good news about California’s water supply lately, but there could be some relief on the way. The North-of-Delta Offstream Storage project, often referred to as the planned Sites Reservoir, was authorized by Congress in 2003. The long delayed project got a financial boost in March when the federal government signaled its intent to loan the project nearly $2.2 billion — about half of the cost to design, plan and build it.
The proposal would flood what’s left of the town of Sites, which has just a handful of residents in a valley of the coastal range mountains in rural Colusa County. The new reservoir could increase Northern California’s water storage capacity by up to 15% and would hold enough water to supply about 1.5 million to 3 million households for one year — although much of the water would be for agricultural purposes.
What scientists are calling a megadrought caused by climate change and is the worst in 1,200 years has given the project new life. It is also in line to get about $875 million from a voter-approved bond, plus another $450 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The proposed reservoir is an offstream facility that would not dam a major river nor block fish migration or spawning. But environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, have said the project would take too much water from the Sacramento River, harming endangered salmon species.
Environmental reviews are continuing and it’s not likely there will be a groundbreaking until 2024.
California reservoir conditions:
DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH TIME
Southern California’s largest reservoir is filled to 88% of its total capacity.
Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet is a key asset in making up for the shortfall in water from other sources after another year of below-normal precipitation.
“The lake has a purpose that helps us in emergencies like earthquakes, but primarily in droughts like this,” said Brent Yamasaki, Metropolitan Water District’s head of operations.“It actually holds more water when it’s full than Lake Havasu.”
Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, provides water to roughly 25 million people in Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico. It is losing water at an alarming rate. It is currently at just 27% of its capacity. California is entitled to 4.4 million acre-feet of water, unless the lake reaches lower levels.
If the lake stays at its current level, a Tier 2 shortage will be declared, further decreasing the amount of water Arizona, Nevada and Mexico can use from the Colorado River. If the forecast is below 1,045 feet, which the latest forecast would suggest, then parts of California would be forced to cut their Colorado River water consumption, too.
At Tier 3 — something the forecast suggests is possible starting in January 2024 — water cuts could be deep enough to extend beyond agriculture and impact household and industrial water use.
In the latest maps, extreme and exceptional drought areas expanded over central Nevada and exceptional drought was expanded to include more of the San Joaquin Valley in California.
Sources: U.S. Drought Monitor, KABC news, The Associated Press, Norcalwater.org, California Department of Water Resources, U.S. Department of Interior