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Stories from the valley

Much better – but still a way to go

Contributed by Tim Johnson

If you follow the news or spend a part of the day with your head bent over a mobile device, you would hardly know we had a significant storm last week. Instead you would be pretty convinced that the water situation had somehow gotten worse.

As an alternate, I would offer the comment of a water engineer I heard giving a report this week when asked about the early February storms. Without hesitation he said, “We are much better!” He then went on to note that Shasta reservoir added about 300,000 acre–feet of water just this week.

The Bureau of Reclamation has further good news from the Shasta Reservoir.  The more than 10 inches of rain that fell increased the lake level by more than 16 feet in just five days!  The reservoir currently stands more than 40 feet higher than the same time last year.

What’s more, strong runoff into Lake Oroville and Folsom were seen and lake levels rising steadily.

The water engineer concluded by saying that we were in far better condition, due to the storm and the effort to keep more water behind the dams, than we were last year.

What a different perspective than the one we so often hear.

We are much better.

At the same time we certainly still need more storms for the balance of the winter, especially ones that bring snow.

The reality however is that while there is cause for concern about the continuing drought, the best response is planning and conservation.

Near term that looks like more of the same hard work our water districts are doing to make sure the water under their care is used wisely and multiple times. Water released from Shasta, for example, can be used to help spawning salmon and just a few miles downstream once past the spawning beds, to grow crops. Downstream from farms it can be used on wildlife refuges.

Long term it means building more reservoirs like Sites to capture the rain when it falls. Additional storage in the Sacramento Valley will allow the region to maintain our farming, continue to provide habitat for the important wildlife that reside here and ensure ample water for our cities.

As farmers and water managers in the Sacramento Valley look toward this year, they are firmly committed to working hard to make the most of water they have available and to putting in place plans to make sure we can even better manage the next dry spell.