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Storage in California’s reservoirs and snowpack in this time of drought

November 17, 2015

The San Francisco Bay and Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta (Delta) are the recipients of inflows from a watershed that spans much of California and that has ties to nearly the entire state. Historically, California has buffered its water supplies and flood risks both within—and beyond—the Delta’s catchment by developing many reservoirs, large and small, high and low. Most of these reservoirs carry water from wet winter seasons—when water demands are low and flood risks are high—to dry, warm seasons (and years) when demands are high and little precipitation falls. Many reservoirs are also used to catch and delay (or spread in time) flood flows that otherwise might cause damage to communities and floodplains. This essay describes the status of surface-water and snowpack storage conditions in California in spring 2015, providing context for better understanding where the state’s water stores stand as we enter summer 2015.

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