California Drought: ‘Spooky’ Water Supply Future

Published on July 27th, 2015

Folsom Lake 2015

Ed Joyce
Capital Public Radio
July 27, 2015

The California Department of Water Resources has framed the fourth year of drought as a "spooky thriller" movie, especially if El Niño does not add much to the state’s reservoirs. 

Posted along with a video this week, the DWR referenced the possibility of what may face California: 

Californians are anticipating a real-life drama: Will El Niño Make It Rain? Scientists say there’s a 90-percent chance of a strong one forming in the Pacific this winter, but will rain fill Northern California reservoirs? State Climatologist Mike Anderson says this drama’s ending is still unwritten: "Unfortunately, even a strong El Niño doesn’t correlate to a particular outcome for California." If this El Niño is a dud, California’s next spooky thriller may be just ahead: "A Fifth Year of Drought! Photos of the State Water Project’s Lake Oroville and the Central Valley Project’s Folsom and Shasta lakes taken on July 20, 2015."

Meanwhile, current reservoir conditions as of midnight, July 23, show Shasta Reservoir at 61 percent of historical average, Lake Oroville at 46 percent and Folsom Lake at 44 percent.


Climate scientist Jay Famigiletti with UC Irvine and NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, has said that one El Niño year won't be enough to end four years of drought in California, or replace depleted water resources.

"The deficit right now is somewhere around 12 trillion gallons of water," says Famiglietti. "So we need to replace about 12 trillion gallons of water in storage, in snow, in groundwater, in our reservoirs. That’s going to take about three years of above-average precipitation."

"So, one El Niño year will help, if it actually brings rain to California, which is not guaranteed. But we need a few years in a row of above-average precipitation to dig out of this monumental hole that we’re in." 

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