What's the chance for a 'normal' rain year now? Grim, if history is a gauge

Paul Rogers, The Mercury News on

Published in Weather News

The good news is that last year's storms filled many of California's largest reservoirs. Hydrologically, that's money in the bank. Combined, 46 of the biggest reservoirs in California are at 106 percent of their historic average storage level or the first week in February, according to state records.

The largest, Shasta Lake, near Redding, was 74 percent full on Monday, or 108 percent of the historic average for that date. Similarly, San Luis Reservoir, between Gilroy and Los Banos, was 85 percent full, or 106 percent of average.

The seven reservoirs operated by East Bay Municipal Water District are 81 percent full.

"Our reservoir levels are OK," said Andrea Pook, a spokeswoman for the district, which provides water to 1.4 million people in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. "Our water supply isn't as worrisome right now, but the snow pack is very low, and we certainly want to see that change. We want people to remember to use water wisely, and keep that mindset."

The East Bay district lifted its drought surcharge and penalties for excessive water use in May 2016. It currently has 624,000 acre feet of water in storage. If that number dips below 500,000, the district may begin dusting off its drought rules, or at least set a voluntary conservation target, Pook said.

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The largest reservoir in Santa Cruz's water system, Loch Lomond, is 93 percent full. And although the 10 reservoirs operated by Santa Clara Valley Water District are just 26 percent full, in part because of state storage limits due to needed earthquake upgrades, the district's groundwater supplies, which make up half the total water supply in Santa Clara County, recovered entirely last year from the drought, rising 60 feet under San Jose in last winter's rains.

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