July 5, 2023 — After facing low levels, Lake Oroville, one of California’s critical reservoirs, has made a remarkable recovery. In November 2022, the lake’s water levels were alarmingly low, standing at only 28% of its capacity. Now, the reservoir is near its full capacity, marking a significant turnaround attributed to the bountiful rains and snow during the winter.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) reports that as of June 30, the lake boasts a stunning 99% capacity. This equates to an increase of over 2.5 million acre-feet of water since December 1st, 2022. To put that into perspective, an acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover a football field with a foot of water.
Current Management of Lake Oroville.
DWR is proactively managing the water levels by releasing some of the water through the Hyatt Powerplant and into the Feather River. The release rate stands at 1,900 cubic feet per second, equivalent to filling approximately 15 Olympic swimming pools every minute.
With the lake being near its full capacity, on windy days there is a possibility of waves splashing over the emergency spillway. However, the DWR says that this will not have an adverse effect on the dam or the spillway. It is closely monitoring the situation.
Notice to Boaters: Exercise Caution.
Recreational boaters are advised to watch for floating debris such as driftwood. The rise in water levels has led to an increase in floating materials, and while authorities are working to address this, boaters are urged to exercise caution.
Significance for California.
Lake Oroville plays a pivotal role in California’s water infrastructure. It serves as a water source for 27 million people and is instrumental in mitigating flooding in downstream areas. With the reservoir nearing its full capacity, California is better positioned to manage the water requirements of its residents.
Public Engagement Opportunity.
For those interested in learning more or voicing concerns, the Oroville Dam Citizens Advisory Commission is hosting a virtual public meeting on July 7, from 10 a.m. to noon. This meeting will cover topics such as dam safety, future plans, and will provide an opportunity for public commentary. To join the virtual meeting, visit this link: Oroville CAC Meeting.
This recovery is crucial for California, as Lake Oroville is an essential resource for providing drinking water, supporting agriculture, and controlling floods. The timely winter rains and snow have played a key role in this significant turnaround.
Image: Aerial view of Lake Oroville on June 12, 2023 via California Department of Water Resources.