With the large reservoirs of Northern California experiencing the impact of extreme drought throughout the region, water officials are scrambling to determine how to manage water in such a volatile time. Water-use restrictions are being imposed in some cities and the farmers are feeling the crunch of yet another drought-stricken year.
NorCal is currently starved for water, but there’s one reservoir that is currently brimming, and the answer to why is actually pretty simple.
As of June 14, most NorCal waterways are historically low for this time of year. Shasta Lake currently sits at 40 percent capacity, which is 49 percent of what it typically has on this date. Lake Oroville sits at 53 percent capacity, which is 67 percent of its historical average. And the reservoir hurting the most from the drought is probably Trinity Lake, which is at 30 percent capacity, which is 38 percent of its historic average.
Needless to say, the impact of the drought is easily seen by the naked eye, but if you were to visit Lake Folsom just outside Sacramento, you wouldn’t think there was a drought at all. The lake is currently sitting at 88 percent of capacity, which is 111 percent of its historic average. It’s currently brimming with water, so why is there such a drastic different between other lakes? It’s simple – weather.
The Sierra Nevada mountains between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe saw some significant wet weather to end the spring season, with unseasonable storms in April and May that drenched the region. Due to Folsom’s relatively small size – 1 million acre-feet of water – the precipitation filled up the lake pretty quick. Those storms were far from drought busters, but their impacts can be seen in Folsom Lake today, although probably not for long.
The drought of 2022, which evidence shows is just an extension of the drought of 2015, will play a major role in water usage, outdoor recreation, local politics, and wildfire season in the coming months. The nearly-impossible decisions regarding farming and wildlife ecosystems will be debated endlessly, and the trend of painting dead grass in front yards will grow. Likely the most immediate impact will be wildfire season, which could once again break records in California during summer and fall months.
Once again, water is the top of mind in California right now. And if you want to see a lot of it, go visit Folsom Lake, before it’s gone.