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California’s Reservoirs Face Dangerously Low Levels

Noah Berger
AP Photo
Dry banks rise above water in Lake Oroville on Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. At left are trees scorched in the 2020 North Complex Fire.

The lack of significant rain this past winter is putting California's reservoirs at dangerously low levels. Experts say this drought is hotter and drier than previous ones, which means the water is evaporating faster.

"The levels in Folsom reservoir are also quite low but I'm hearing that the local water districts that depend on Folsom have enough groundwater capacity and enough access to remaining surface water to get through this year,” said Jay Lund with the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. “But some of them are starting to call for water conservation."

On May 25, the Folsom City Council last week asked residents to voluntarily reduce water use by 10% and told city staff to boost outreach about water conservation.

Lund says the state's more than 1,500 reservoirs are 50% lower than they should be this time of year.

Josh Edelson
Kayakers make a long trek to the water's edge at a drought-stricken Lake Mendocino, currently at 29% of normal capacity, in Ukiah, Calif., Sunday, May 23, 2021. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency for most of the state.
Noah Berger
Weeds sprout from a boat launch ramp, which rests far above the water line at Lake Oroville on Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Oroville, Calif.
Noah Berger
A launch ramp, extended to accommodate low water levels, stretches into Lake Oroville on Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. At the time of this photo, the reservoir was at 39 percent of capacity and 46 percent of its historical average.