News and Stories

UPDATE: California Drought

December 19, 2016


A wet start to the 2016-2017 winter season has eased symptoms of the drought in areas throughout Northern California. To date, 73% of the state, mainly in Central and Southern California, remains in a drought. October rain helped to fill some reservoirs in Northern California, but only some of them are slightly above normal for this time of year. On the other hand, the state’s snowpack water content is lower now than it was last year. While California has had a decent start to the water year, much more rain and snow are needed throughout the state to recover from the drought.


The state’s snowpack is crucial to providing snowmelt to reservoirs during the spring and summer months. It’s still early in the 2017 water year, but snowpack water content is only about 54% of normal for this time of year (3.7 inches). At this time last year, snowpack water content was a little higher at 5.7 inches. A storm moving into California today is expected to bring rain and snow to the state, including as much as 2 to 3 feet of snow in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountain region.


Below are the current snowpack levels for the three main regions of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

  • Northern Sierra snowpack is below normal levels at 4.8 inches (69% of normal)
  • Central Sierra snowpack is below normal levels at 3.8 inches (52% of normal)
  • Southern Sierra region is below normal levels at 2.6 inches (46% of normal)

As the 2017 water year progresses, officials at the State Water Project and Central Valley Project will adjust surface water allocation amounts based on water content in the snowpack, water stored in reservoirs, and rainfall. As of now, the Central Valley Project has not released water allocation amounts but the State Water Project has set its initial allocation at 20%, which is 10% larger than its initial allocation last year.


California’s reservoirs are in a much better position than they were last year:

  • Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir, is currently 67% full, while it was only 30% full last year
  • Folsom Lake is 63% full, while it was only 15% full last year
  • Lake Oroville is 46% full, while it was only 26% full last year
  • San Luis Reservoir is 53% full, while it was only 17% full last year

Although the state’s large reservoirs are much higher than last year, Salinas Valley’s main reservoirs, Lake Nacimiento and Lake San Antonio, which are key to recharging Salinas Valley’s groundwater supplies, have increased only slightly and remain at low levels:

  • Lake San Antonio is currently only 6% full and was 3% full last year
  • Lake Nacimiento is 23% full and was only 18% full last year 

Rainfall totals in Northern California are well-above seasonal norms, but the state’s other key growing regions continue to see rainfall totals below seasonal norms.




Please contact your Markon customer service representative for more information.


©2016 Markon Cooperative, Inc. All rights reserved.