Friday January 13, 2023


Despite several weeks of torrential rain and flooding, California is still facing a severe multi-year drought. That has many people thinking about how to better capture winter floodwaters to last through the dry season.

An innovative approach at two California reservoirs could help boost the state’s water supply, potentially marking a larger shift from decades-old water management approaches to a system that can quickly adapt to precipitation in a changing climate.

At issue are rules that, at face value, seem perplexing to many Californians. Even in a chronically dry state, reservoirs are not allowed to fill up in the winter.

Throughout the late fall and winter, most are required to release water if they get too full, sometimes emptying out almost by half. That’s because the empty space is crucial if an intense storm hits. Reservoirs collect runoff and prevent it from flooding downstream cities.

Still, in some years, reservoirs preemptively empty out with little need if no major storms materialize. That means valuable water is lost for potentially drier months ahead.

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