News and Stories

UPDATE: Atmospheric River & The California Drought

January 13, 2017


The atmospheric river brought multiple storms to California over the past week which has helped ease the state’s drought.


While 58% of the state continues to experience drought conditions, mainly in Central and Southern California, the rain and snow received over the last week has been significant in ending the drought in Northern California. In comparison, 97% of the state was in a drought at the same time last year. Rain from these storms has filled many of the state’s main reservoirs to above normal levels for this time of year and some areas in the Sierra Nevada Mountains have received up to 12 feet of snow over the past week. More rain and snow is forecast to move into California next week. While these storms have provided some drought relief, several wet winters are needed to completely fill reservoirs and replenish groundwater throughout the rest of the state.


Attached is a map showing current drought conditions in the state of California. While drought conditions have greatly improved from last year, the red portion (D3-D4), representing extreme drought continues to cover the key growing regions of Ventura County/Oxnard, California and parts of the San Joaquin Valley. In contrast, the white or non-shaded portion of the state shows that nearly 35% of the state (Northern California) is no longer experiencing drought conditions.


Storms that reached California have increased the statewide snowpack to 163% of normal, to date. Snowpack is key to providing snowmelt to reservoirs throughout the spring and summer months. The Sierra Nevada snowpack has significantly increased over the course of this winter. When we reported on the drought four weeks ago, the snowpack was sitting at only 54% of normal or 3.7 inches of water content. As of today, snowpack water content is 20.8 inches which is substantially more surface water that will be available to reservoirs over the coming months. Listed below are the current snowpack levels for the main regions of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.


             Northern Sierra snowpack is above normal levels at 17.3 inches (132% of normal)

             Central Sierra snowpack is above normal levels at 22.5 inches (163% of normal)

             Southern Sierra snowpack is above normal levels at 21.7 inches (197% of normal)


In addition to higher-than-normal snowpack levels, rain has increased many reservoirs levels throughout the state.


             The state’s largest reservoir, Lake Shasta, is 83% full (129% of normal)

             Lake Oroville is 79% full (126% of normal)

             Folsom Lake is 69% full (137% of normal)

             San Luis Reservoir, which provides surface water to much of the San Joaquin Valley, is 69% full (95% of normal)


The storms over the last week have also boosted Salinas Valley’s main reservoirs, Lake Nacimiento and Lake San Antonio, which are important for recharging groundwater supplies in the area.


             Lake San Antonio is currently 13% full, which is 7% more than a month ago

             Lake Nacimiento is 54% full, which is 31% more than a month ago


Rainfall totals in Northern California remain above seasonal norms while the other key growing regions are nearing seasonal norms.


Please contact your Markon customer service representative for more information.


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