Looking at the current reservoir conditions from the California Data Exchange Center, it is clear to see that the conditions in California are much different than from a year ago. Nine of the state’s major reservoirs that serve both the Central Valley and State Water Projects have over 100% of their historic averages for this date. The state’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville are at 96% and 84% full respectively. The San Francisco Chronicle published a series of before and after photos of reservoirs in the state to show the stunning change in hydrologic conditions in just one year. For example, in August 2016, the San Luis Reservoir outside of Los Banos was at 10% of capacity. Fast forward to today, and the reservoir is completely full. The much-improved hydrologic conditions prompted Governor Jerry Brown on April 7th to issue an executive order that lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Kings, Tulare, Fresno and Tuolumne. The drought emergency he rescinded had been in place since April 25, 2014. Continue reading
There is no doubt that California faces continued challenges as we enter into the fourth year of severe drought conditions. The pundits, however, disagree with the severity of the water supply crunch in the state. Last week, two prominent California water experts gave two different opinions on how severe the water crisis in California really is. Jay Famiglietti, professor of Earth System Science and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Irvine made a dire prediction that California has one more year of water left in our reservoirs if drought conditions do not change. He recommends immediate water rationing across the state, urging everyone to pitch in and conserve water. In contrast, Jay Lund, Professor of Environmental and Civil Engineering at UC Davis sounded a more sanguine tone. While he agreed that our snowpack in particular was at alarmingly low levels, he did not agree that California will be at the end of its rope if conditions don’t get better in a year. He said, “It’s not the right impression that one more year of this and we’re toast. There’s quite a bit more left in groundwater – a bit less every year because we’re pumping, trying to make up for the drought.” Continue reading
This winter continues to be the tale of extreme weather patterns. In Boston, the City experienced its snowiest February ever, (Boston has weather records dating back to around the Civil War) and the grand total of snow this winter is less than 2 inches off of the all-time cumulative record set in the winter of 1995-1996. The subways and commuter trains in the City have run on modified schedules for weeks. Some above-ground tracks may not get fully cleared until the end of March. Economists estimate that the series of winter storms caused $2 billion in economic damages to the City of Boston alone. Continue reading
Time to change our use of language about California’s State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. Out with the old (supply reliability) and in with the new (risk management of water shortages).