Water, water everywhere: Good and bad of California's rising reservoir levels

"Use it or lose it" is what state and federal water managers in California are wrestling with as one of the biggest precipitation years has the mountains packed with snow and reservoirs loaded to the brim. 

For the state, water is liquid gold that feeds many people, animals, trees, and industries. 

But, if not well managed, it can also present great danger.

Northern California's cool and wet spring has created the ideal conditions for ample snowpack water supplies for most, if not all of the summer.

"This is the 5th largest year recorded since 1950. At the higher elevation we're seeing almost 200 percent of the average for this time of year," said Chris Orrock of the California Water Resources Department.

Pacific Gas & Electric which runs the nation's largest privately owned hydroelectric system, says it's watershed got more than 150 percent of expected snow. 

"That means there will be plenty of water for not only hydropower and dish, but farms and other water users this year," said  PG&E Hydro Spokesman Paul Moreno. "Every time we generate more hydropower, that's less power than we have to generate from fossil fuel plants or other sources." 

But Orrock says some reservoirs are close to capacity and there is nowhere to put the water. 

'We're gonna have to start releasing more if the snow starts melting more," he said. "But, if we do get that rapid melt off, there's not much we can do about that." 

All reservoir owners are taking part in the complex process of releasing enough water to have space to catch the snowmelt without releasing too much. 

The other very real-life danger to people who think— without the right equipment and protection, that they can manage this frigid, high, and swift water.

"There's a lot of water. It's cold. It's fast," said Moreno. "In many places, it's higher than normal. So, use caution when in a near the water."

Four California counties, Orange, Riverside, Imperial, and San Diego counties found themselves in abnormally dry condition, one step above moderate drought, affect more than 9 million of the state's 40 million people.