El Niño: California Reservoirs Rise Dramatically

Drenching storms brought on by the Pacific El Niño have succeeded in dramatically raising water levels at some of California’s largest reservoirs.

The water level at Lake Oroville, the state’s second-largest reservoir after Lake Shasta, has risen 20 feet in just the last six days, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. As of January 19, the lake sat at 694 feet above sea level, still well below full capacity of 900 feet but significantly higher than the 649 feet registered in December.

Additionally, the paper reports that Folsom Lake near Sacramento has risen a dramatic 44 feet in just the last month, to slightly under 393 feet above sea level.

Californians can thank a series of powerful storms that have battered the state in recent weeks for the rise in reservoir levels, during which some areas saw record-breaking rainfall.

Kevin Wright of the Department of Water Resources Oroville Field Division told the Chronicle that the state has not seen water levels rise as they have this month since the drought began in earnest roughly four years ago.

“We had over three inches of rain locally in Oroville over a two day period,” Wright told the paper. “The ground was already wet on the surface from the past storms so that allowed for this heavy rain to provide more runoff.”

The rise in water levels comes as welcome news to California, which saw its reservoirs decimated as a result of the record drought. In June, local officials ordered all boats removed from Folsom Lake due to sinking water levels. A dramatic aerial video released the following month revealed the extent of the drought’s damage to the state’s largest reservoirs.

While Californians remain cautiously optimistic about the rise in water levels, state farmers are preparing for another tough year; despite all the rainfall and increased snowpack brought on by El Niño, farmers are unlikely to receive any federal water allocations for a third straight year.


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