Following substantial rain and snowfall in Northern California this winter, the water level of Lake Shasta is now at its highest in almost four years. As of May 9th, the lake is 1,063.77 feet above the water level, marking a rise of nearly 150 feet since the beginning of 2023 when it was at 928.01 feet.
These figures represent the highest water levels since 2019, for this time of the year and at any point, and are just below the 2019 high of 1,064.5 feet. The lake is currently just 3.2 feet short of its full capacity of 1,067 feet.
“Shasta’s going to stay pretty full all summer long,” said Don Bader, the Northern California Area Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, to KRCR. “We’re going to go down about 40 to 50 feet by the end of September, which the boaters; the marine operators are thrilled about because it’s going to be great for recreation on the lake.”
Lake Shasta’s significant increase in its water levels can be primarily attributed to the heavy rainfall the state experienced in the early spring, which replenished many of the previously dried-up reservoirs. For comparison, on May 9th of the previous year, Lake Shasta was at only 946.67 feet.
The powerful atmospheric river storms that hit California this year also blanketed the Sierra Nevadas with snowfall, building up the mountain’s snowpack to record levels. As spring temperatures rise, this snow will start to melt, flowing down the mountains into the valleys, further refilling the reservoirs as part of the anticipated “big melt.”
“Snowpack provides 30 percent of California’s freshwater and plays a critical role in the replenishment of reservoir levels when it melts and increases streamflows in the spring and early summer,” explained Andrew Schwartz, lead scientist and manager at the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Laboratory, to Newsweek. “It acts as its own storage system on top of the mountains.”
This melt may further increase the water levels in Lake Shasta and surrounding reservoirs, including the dreadfully low Trinity Lake, which relies heavily on snow melt.
“And then going into next winter, assuming we get just the normal winter storms, we’re going to be pumped full next spring at Shasta, which is great for next year,” added Bader. “So, we already know going into next year we’re totally trending in the right direction here out of three years of drought.”