Too Much Water? Shasta Lake Has Risen 100 Feet and Officials May Have to Open its Spillway

Photo by Johannes Krupinski

Northern California has received significant rainfall from late-winter storms in March which has seen the water of Shasta Lake, the largest reservoir in California, rise by eight feet over the past week and over 100 feet since December 1st. That’s great news for businesses on the lake, but all leaves open the possibility that officials will need to open spillway to leave room for snow melt.

It’s an odd problem for an area stricken by drought over the past decade, but Shasta Lake might, in fact, be receiving too much water right now.

The rainfall this month is a welcome change from a year ago, where there were sunny days all winter long that led to poor water storage. As of Monday, Shasta Lake was 75% full and 98% of historical average, compared to 49% of average for the same day last year. Although there was a rainy weekend, more wet weather is forecasted from Tuesday through the rest of the week.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation indicated that despite the lake’s rising water levels, there wouldn’t be a need to release water over the spillway this spring, but officials have since adjusted the dam’s flood operation plan, allowing the potential for water to be released through the spillway later this spring.

The area manager of the Bureau of Reclamation, Don Bader, expects the lake to reach its peak level by mid-April. However, there is still plenty of room for more water as the lake is still below its fill line by 42 feet. Officials will have more clarity on whether they will need to release water through the dam’s spillway next week. Since January 1st, Shasta Dam has received over 37 inches of rain, with 90% of the rainfall coming in January and the first three weeks in March. Redding has received 22.57 inches of rain since January 1st.

Bader expects the Bureau of Reclamation to increase flows from Shasta Dam in late April, as demand for water from ag farmers who grow rice increases. The Bureau of Reclamation operates Lake Shasta and Trinity Lake, which supply numerous local water agencies in the Redding area, including the cities of Redding and Shasta Lake, the Bella Vista Water District, and smaller water districts. Trinity Lake relies more heavily on snowmelt, so its water levels will start rising as more snow melts through the spring.

The Water Wars of California are on full display this winter, with organizations and environmental groups fighting to allocate water for their respective plans. It should get interesting this spring.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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