A usually optimistic Dwayne Chisam, AVEK’s General Manager, had nothing to smile about when he reported the state’s water supply situation to Agency Directors at their October Board meetings.
Dwayne did not have good news to share at the public meetings when it came to weather conditions and the impact on water supplies. At the October 11th board meeting Dwayne told Directors in the Northern Sierra there was no precipitation. However, he allowed for a glimmer of hope, when he added, “We’ll see how the water year stacks up.”
Locally, Dwayne said, groundwater recovery was at 55% of capacity, with “no recharge occurring at the present time.”
At that time, the network of reservoirs connected by the State Water Project measured seriously below their capacity. For instance, the water level in Shasta was at 33% of capacity; Casitas was at 29% of capacity; Castaic was at 0% of capacity; Lake Oroville was at 34% of capacity; and San Luis, where AVEK receives its State Water Project supplies, was at 27% of capacity.
Another dry year can be expected in 2023, but AVEK has enough resources to get through the rest of the year, he assured the Directors.
Information on the California Department of Water Resources website didn’t leave room for hope as the state prepares to enter the new year. On average,75% of California’s annual precipitation – a combination of rain, snow, and hail – provides a wet season from November through March. Most of that precipitation comes in December, January and February, the DWR website noted.
Winter storms which occur during that time frame are referred to as atmospheric rivers. The presence or absence of atmospheric rivers makes the difference between a wet or dry year. Those factors help DWR decide on the allocation provided to State Water Project contractors for the upcoming year.
“Climate change has fundamentally altered our state’s hydrologic system – intensifying extreme weather and leading to longer, drier periods,” the DWR website stated.
Water year 2022 ended on September 30th, leaving behind months of seemingly never-ending extreme drought, resulting in an historically dry period “and a record-shattering heatwave.”
Total precipitation across the state measured 17.9 inches or 76% of historical average. The year ended with a statewide reservoir storage of 14.70 million acre-feet of water, equal to 69% of historical average.
Statewide California experienced a moderate drought, but specific regions suffered a severe or extreme drought. The Antelope Valley falls into that category. In Northern California peak snowpack measured zero % of average.
Groundwater accounts for roughly 60% of the state water supply in drought times. Three consecutive years of drought strained groundwater wells. A total of 1,324 dry wells were reported and 64% of monitoring wells were below their normal level.
Now California enters a fourth year of extreme drought.