Lake Shasta filled to 34% could see water levels soar
While all the rains that fell in December helped raise the level of a parched-looking Lake Shasta, the series of winter storms failed to generate massive influxes of water into the largest reservoir in the State.
That is expected to change over the next 10 days as a series of wet storms roll through the area dropping several inches of rain, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a flood watch for Wednesday and Thursday in the county. from Shasta.
“This next system that crosses is going to hit Shasta hard,” Don Bader, regional director for the US Bureau of Reclamation, said Tuesday morning. “We’re probably looking at 40 or 50 feet from the lake ahead.”
The Bureau of Reclamation operates Shasta Lake and Trinity Lake. Both reservoirs contain water that is used to supply many local water agencies, including the towns of Redding and Shasta Lake, the Bella Vista Water District, and other smaller water districts in the Redding area.
On Tuesday Shasta Lake was 34% full and 57% of normal for this time of year.
Trinity Lake, which also supplies water to Whiskeytown Lake and the Sacramento River, was 38% of normal, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Bader said Shasta Lake rose about 10 feet in December.
The big winner from December’s wet weather was Folsom Lake outside Sacramento, which was two-thirds full and 148% of average on Tuesday.
“The American River is a pretty big basin and Folsom isn’t really a big reservoir, so it was going up a foot an hour at times,” Bader said.
He said drainage in Folsom was around 100,000 cubic feet per second, while Lake Shasta was “barely getting 15,000 to 20,000” cfs.
“This next system, we’re going to see this quadruple in one day. That’s why the big increase in Shasta,” Bader said. “We can fill this thing in the winter. Shasta may be full, but it must keep raining.
Which didn’t happen last year.
After a wet fall and early winter, the rain stopped in January, February and March.
“December, January and February are key months for rainfall. We have to have it because we’re coming into the spring and it’s just not the big winter events we like to see,” Bader said.
“It’s encouraging. At least until mid-January we definitely have good storm events,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Department of Water Resources conducted its first snow survey on Tuesday, which showed the statewide snowpack was 174% of average for the date.
Despite the encouraging numbers, state water officials said relief from the prolonged drought will depend on months to come.
And while snow in the mountains is also welcome, Bader reiterated that for Lake Shasta, it’s the rain that matters – 90% of the water that fills the reservoir each year comes from rain.
“What killed us the last two years was that it was so dry that all the water and snow that entered the tributaries went straight into the ground,” Bader said. “Those December rains got it wet and primed and now most of the runoff (will) go into the lake.”
This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: California Storms: Shasta Lake Water Levels Will Rise 40-50 Feet