With storms, California drought conditions downgraded but not over

California DWR staff prepare for flooding
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January 13, 2013 – The California Department of Water ResourcesOpens in a new tab. is responding to the statewide impacts from a series of severe storms that have inundated the state since late December, according to a press release issued yesterday.

More Storms and “Flood-Fight” on the Way.

The Department writes that “The latest atmospheric river produced heavy precipitation in Central and Southern California leading to extremely high flows on many rivers and streams. More precipitation is forecasted to continue over Northern California through the weekend, resulting in renewed elevated levels in rivers on the North Coast. Central and Southern California are getting a break from precipitation for a couple of days, with yet another round of storms forecasted to return by Friday through the weekend.”

The State-Federal Flood Operations Center is monitoring flood management systems pursuant to flood management needs and requirements based on forecast conditions as they develop.  For example, “flood-fight” materials and equipment have been positioned at 49 locations statewide to support state and local response. Flood-fight specialists are being deployed as needed to help local agencies assess critical locations along leveed segments of the flood control system.

“We’ll keep working with our local partners that have requested materials and crews to support their flood fights as these response efforts continue,” said Jeremy Arrich, Manager of the Department’s Division of Flood Management.Opens in a new tab. “The Cosumnes River in Sacramento County has been an area we’ve been highlighting. The flood fight measures that we put in place, working with the local partners, have held through the storms this week. We’ll continue looking at that system and monitoring how those flood fight measures are performing.”

Reservoirs Are Filling but the Drought’s Not Over.

The State Water Project is capturing as much water from the storm systems as possible while meeting environmental requirements.  The State Water Project’s largest reservoir, Lake Oroville, is now at 1.3 million acre-feet and climbing, but over 2 million more acre-feet of water is still needed to fill the lake due to the extreme drought conditions over the last few years.

“These storms have not ended the drought,” said Molly White, Water Operations Manager for the State Water ProjectOpens in a new tab.. “Major reservoir storage remains below average, and conditions could turn dry again this winter, offsetting recent rain and snow.”

CalMattersOpens in a new tab. reports that San Francisco’s water supply, the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, in the Sierra Nevada, is 80% full, the ground is saturated and near-record rainfall has occurred in recent days. Despite the recent weather, the drought is not over.  CalMattersOpens in a new tab. writes:

“Drought is in the eye of the beholder,” said Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. “If you’re in San Francisco, and you rely on surface storage from Hetch Hetchy, this is great … But if you’re in a small town in the San Joaquin Valley, where massive pumping of groundwater has dried out your well, it will take successive years of rain like this to make a difference.”

Data and Current Conditions.

The Department of Water Resources’ Data Exchange CenterOpens in a new tab. provides public access to hydrologic and climate information used to support real-time flood management and water supply needs throughout the state.

Image and Source.  DWR Flood Operations during the Deer Creek Levee Repair in Sacramento County via the California Department of Water ResourcesOpens in a new tab..


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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