California's major reservoirs are still far drier than average

The just-passed atmospheric river gave California a lot of precious, badly needed water. But how well did our all-important reservoir systems do? For California, water storage, above and underground are the key to California's economic fate.

As of midnight Monday, California's major reservoirs keep getting more water from the weekend's storm as the runoff finds its way into them. 

"The major reservoirs are still very, very low," said hydrologist and climatologist Dr. Peter Gleick, founder of the Pacific Institute. 

"We need several more big storms, really quite a few, frankly before those big reservoirs get to where they ought to be today," said Gleick.

The state's five biggest reservoirs tell the tale.

Shasta, the state's largest is only 25% full. But that's less than half of its normal volume this time of year. Lake Oroville: 31% full.  Trinity: 29% full; less than half of normal. New Melones: 37% full. San Luis: 24% full, not even half of normal. 

"The really big water demands in California, the Central Valley Farms, the big cities along the coast and in southern California, depend on the big reservoirs," said Gleick.

Lake Sonoma, managed by the Sonoma County Water Agency, is the Bay region's largest reservoir. It serves 600,000 residences and businesses in the North Bay.  

In 2019, on this day, it was 87% full will much of the rainy season to go. In 2020, as the drought set in, it was at 66% full. This time, this year, just 50% full, including the most recent rains. 

"This is the second atmospheric river we've had and we're going to need a lot more of these storms before we're out of this drought. After two years of drought, it's going to take a lot of rain to fill up our reservoirs again." said Sonoma Water spokesman Barry Dugan.

Right now, most Marin County reservoirs look to be in better shape as we can see here at Stafford Lake and Nicasio Reservoir. But that's because they are relatively small, in constant need of replenishment.  So, whether it's big or small reservoir, the worry is this. "Sometimes we can have an incredibly dry January and February and that's what we're worried about. We're still not out of the woods yet," said Dr. Gleick.

So, for now, the atmospheric rivers bought us a little time, but very little.