Despite healthy rain, California's water supply still ailing

The recent rains gave local reservoirs a little breathing room as they struggle to obtain additional sources to replenish their dwindling reservoirs. 

Lakes Shasta and Oroville, by far California's biggest reservoirs, depend almost exclusively on melting snow pack. Though both are woefully low, last week's storms helped Oroville go up 8%; Shasta only 1%. 

"The last couple of years, the storms have primarily, I guess mostly, missed the Shasta watersheds," said Valley Water’s Imported Water Manager Cindy Kao.

California's big five mega reservoirs, average only 27% full. This is actually down 6% from just five weeks ago because not all water goes to human activities. "Those reservoirs, they need to release water for fish, for outflow and water quality in the Delta," said Kao.

The mega reservoirs need many atmospheric rivers and thick, heavy blankets of snow to help fill smaller local reservoirs. For example, the storms gave a boost to the South Bay's Valley Water supply.

"A week ago, before all the storm came through and we were at 14.7. I just looked at Valley Waters ten reservoirs are we're at 19.4%, so about a 5% boost," said Valley Water Spokesman Matt Keller.

That means Valley Water is still 81% empty. "We're way, way, way, way, way below normal for what we should be seeing this time of year," said Keller.

State Climatologist Dr. Mike Anderson says the mega reservoirs are where they are because that's where the most rain has fallen historically. "Larger systems, when you deplete them like this it takes much more than average to get that kind of recovery because you've got to have water you're not using this year going to recover that spent storage," said Dr. Anderson.

The Climatologist says that's hard when we've had three increasingly record setting droughts in the last 15 years "It's gonna take a lot more than this to get us out of the hole we've dug ourselves," said Anderson.

Last December started out gangbusters too, then dried out for weeks on end.