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Apr 05

From the desk of Tim Barr, Director of Water Resources

Posted on April 5, 2016 at 10:40 AM by Torrey Webb

Reservoirs Are Near Capacity; Now What?...

Thankfully, El Nino-charged storms came somewhat as expected, at least for Northern California, bolstering the snowpack and filling key reservoirs. However, it’s probably going to be some time before we can return our irrigation timers back to pre-drought schedules.

Why? Well, water supply in California is complicated.

Although many of the larger reservoirs, such as Shasta and Oroville in Northern California (where Western gets much of our water supply), are nearing capacity, the statewide snowpack is just below average for this time of year – 87 percent.

The snowmelt alone makes up for approximately a quarter of the state’s water supply, and we just learned that it’s average this year; not enough supply has been collected to overturn the drought declaration. According to Michael Anderson, who is with the California Department of Water Resources, it would’ve likely taken 150 percent or more of normal rainfall and snowpack to remedy our drought condition in one year.

In late March, the California Department of Water Resources takes the final snowpack measurement, which noted above is at 87 percent. Based on these findings, the Governor and regulators in Sacramento will now determine if the amount is enough to perhaps ease the water-use restrictions associated with the water conservation mandate.

It will be a difficult decision because California is a large state with many different climates, water sources, and water users. And although one season of decent rain will provide valuable water deliveries exceeding last year, it may not be enough to lift water restrictions in Southern California.

In the meantime, we must meet existing drought restrictions imposed by the State Water Resources Control Board. And, we’ll definitely keep you, our customers, and stakeholders informed on upcoming decisions and rulings regarding water conservation and how they will impact all of our water use going forward through 2016.

Please continue to check out this Blog, visit, or look for communications in the mail regarding updates on Western’s water supply and tips on outdoor water-use efficiency.