Wave of wet weather boosting California's reservoirs

An ongoing wave of atmospheric river systems hitting the Bay Area has provided a much-needed boost to state reservoirs.

"The longer these wet conditions continue, the better off for reservoir storage," said Jeanine Jones of the California Department of Water Resources.

Lake Oroville, which is 80 miles northeast of Sacramento and is considered a key reservoir in the state’s water project, is sitting at 99 percent of its historic average for this time of the year. But not all reservoirs have been reaping the same benefits amid this wave of wet weather.

"Folsom Lake for example, east of Sacramento, it’s a good size reservoir, a million acre feet, and it began making flood control releases shortly after Christmas, but that was simply because it was in the path of some of the wettest storms," said Jones. "Lake Shasta at the northern end of the state is a much larger reservoir, so it takes much longer to fill, and also it didn’t see some of that early moisture that other reservoirs did."

Lake Shasta’s water level is current sitting at 80 percent of its historic average. 

Meantime, Lake Mendocino has picked up so much rain over the last few weeks, that a high flow release is scheduled for midday Monday at the Coyote Valley Dam. The US Army Corps of Engineers says the release will help increase capacity at the reservoir for future storms.  

Over the last few weeks, statewide precipitation levels have surged.

"Right now we’re at 158 percent of average for the water year to date, which is a huge improvement over where we were say a month ago," said Jones.

Since October, San Francisco has picked up more than 20 inches of rain, making it the seventh-wettest period in the city since record keeping began during the California Gold Rush in 1849.

"This year, if we continue in this pattern, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we start to break records for the water year," said Brian Garcia, a National Weather Service meteorologist in San Francisco.

Still, Garcia is cautioning, California’s drought is far from over.

"The long term drought that we’ve been in has really taken us years and years to get into," said Garcia. "So it’s not going to be one Winter season of extremely wet conditions that will get us out of this drought."