California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) is gearing up for the new water year that began on October 1st, with a keen eye on the possibility of another wet season, driven by strong El Niño conditions.
The historically wet water year was a very welcomed sight for Northern California residents, who enjoyed full waterways and a weak wildfire season (so far) after nearly decade of prolonged drought. But with the water resources currently brimming, would another wet year bring too much water? The DWR is preparing for that exact scenario, hoping to manage water effectively to maximize storage, help salmon runs, and minimize flooding.
The state has made substantial investments in forecasting and emergency preparedness, reaping the benefits during last season’s storms. The DWR is incorporating lessons learned and advancing science and technology to effectively manage water resources in the coming years. The agency will utilize advanced forecasting tools in collaboration with partners like NOAA, Scripps, and others to prepare for whatever weather conditions California may face in the months ahead.
DWR is closely coordinating with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, to ensure reservoirs have ample flood capacity for a second consecutive year of potential flood conditions. They aim to store as much water as possible to guard against a return to drought conditions.
Last winter’s storms provided a significant boost to the State Water Project. Lake Oroville, in particular, saw remarkable recovery, registering the single largest increase in the project’s history. Since December 1, 2022, the SWP has stored a total of 3.5 million acre-feet of water in reservoirs. Oroville currently stands at 136 percent of its historical average, compared to just 64 percent a year ago. Shasta Lake is sitting strong at 76 percent full, or 131 percent of its historical average. San Luis Reservoir, jointly operated in Merced County, is at 190 percent of its historical average, up from 67 percent at the same time last year.
In addition to prudent water management, DWR is actively assisting local communities in preparing for the potential of another year of flood conditions. Vulnerable communities are receiving funding, flood fight training, and ongoing material support across the state. DWR has increased its flood fighting materials, including an additional 2.4 million sandbags pre-positioned at multiple locations.
The State-Federal Flood Operations Center (FOC) is collaborating with local counties and communities to provide flood fight training and pre-season emergency response coordination. These efforts aim to ensure that vulnerable communities have the necessary resources and training to respond effectively to potential flooding.
More than $430 million in state funding has been allocated in the recent budget to support flood response and projects designed to safeguard communities from future flooding.
As the new water year begins, Californians are urged to remain aware of local flood risks, prepare to evacuate if necessary, know evacuation routes, and respond promptly to evacuation orders issued by local authorities. State agencies are actively coordinating efforts during California Flood Preparedness Week, which runs from October 21st to October 28th, to help local communities prepare for potential flooding.