Harvesting the Deluge is an Opportunity for Californians

It doesn’t take a hydrologist to know Californians are getting an unusual amount of rain. Totals in the San Francisco Bay Area are an astonishing 600 percent of normal for this time of year. In almost every watershed throughout the state, total rainfall is well above normal, and in the Sierras, the all important snowpack is now sitting at exactly 200 percent of normal.

With this quantity of water already delivered from the sky, with so much more on the way, one might think that drought restrictions could be lifted. But not so fast. Despite predicting for years that Californians were going to need to rely less on a diminishing snowpack and more on harvesting water from storm runoff, the state has done little to take advantage of the new normal. When the rain stops and the snow melts prematurely, Californians will likely face another year of drought restrictions.

It didn’t have to be this way. In 2014 voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, a water bond that would have funded the sort of water storage projects that we could use right now. But that was over 8 years ago, and not one project has started construction. The proposed Sites Reservoir, an offstream facility originally planned to hold two million acre feet, remains tied up in litigation, endless planning, and only half-hearted and belated efforts by the state to secure matching federal funds. The proposed Temperance Flat Reservoir, which would have held 1.5 million acre feet […] Read More