Oroville Dam is the centerpiece and largest water storage
facility of the State Water Project. Located about 70 miles north
of Sacramento at the Feather River confluence, Oroville Dam
creates a reservoir that can hold 3.5 million acre-feet of water.
Features such as a fish barrier dam and pool at Oroville Dam made
the SWP one of the first major water projects built with
environmental protections as a major consideration.
Besides storing water, the dam also protects downstream residents
from the floodprone Feather River—the main feeder of the SWP— and
provides major water recreation facilities such as boating,
fishing and camping.
On December 16, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
(Commission or FERC) issued a final rule amending its
regulations governing the dam safety of FERC-licensed
hydroelectric projects under the Federal Power Act (FPA).
FERC’s final rule follows its July 16, 2020 Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking (NOPR) (see July 21, 2020 edition of the WER), which
FERC issued following the 2017 spillway incident at the
Oroville Dam and the May 2020 dam failures at the Edenville Dam
and Sanford Dam in central Michigan.
After an atmospheric river unleashed a torrent of rain over
Northern California in October, the state saw another
moisture-rich system in November and then a parade of storms
across December. With a wet start this season, the rivers
are rushing, the waterfalls flowing and the reservoirs
beginning to rise. The snowpack is signaling a
remarkable turnaround after two dry seasons. The Hyatt Power
Plant is back online at Lake Oroville after it
was forced to shut down due to historic low
reservoir levels in August. … This is all
promising, but the drought is not over.
From historic drought to record setting rain and snow,
California is now starting to see the multiple benefits of its
big start to the wet season. The epic start to the wet season
is delivering drought relief and big climate benefits to
California. With the Hyatt Powerplant back online at Lake
Oroville for the first time in 5 months, Mark Hafner with the
Department of Water Resources (DWR) says there’s less need for
It was one of the low points of the drought: California
officials took the unprecedented step of shutting off one of
the state’s largest hydro power plants in August because there
wasn’t enough water in the reservoir. Five months after the
shutdown, following weeks of encouraging rain and snow, the
Department of Water Resources announced it had finally resumed
operations at the Hyatt Powerplant at Lake Oroville.
California has seen big changes in reservoir levels so far this
rainy season and the trend is up for the foreseeable future. At
the beginning of the water year for 2020-2021, some major
reservoirs, such as Lake Oroville, were at record lows.
California’s well-known reliance on water capture and transport
was under severe strain until a record October storm provided
quick relief. More storms in December have continued to
add water to the big reservoirs and more snowpack which will
become future water in the Spring and Summer.
We compiled and analyzed California Waterblog statistics from
2021 to provide some insight as to which blogs viewers found
the most alluring or noteworthy (as measured by total unique
views). As expected perhaps, top blogs tended to focus on
reservoirs, drought, climate and fish, roughly in that order.
And as we descend into a highly uncertain 2022, where our new
drought may tighten or loosen its grip (maybe both), these
topics will continue as critical issues for California – its
ecosystems, egosystems, unique biota, and peoples.
More than two decades of dry winters and drying Colorado River
reservoirs will finally produce a long-feared landscape of
drier farms in central Arizona starting this month. Desert
farmers, especially the 900 or more in Pinal County, start the
new year with massively reduced allocations from the canal that
delivers water hundreds of miles from the river. Their
irrigation districts are using state money to drill new wells
to replace some of the losses with groundwater, another
resource that’s at a premium in the fast-growing region.
A recent new round of heavy rain and snow following a dry
November soaked a thirsty California landscape — but it wasn’t
enough to significantly improve the state’s water storage
levels, according to data from the California Department of
Water Resources. Even after the atmospheric river storm Sunday
and Monday, on top of a similar downpour in October, most
reservoirs in Northern California saw little change, and remain
below water levels both one year ago and historic averages,
according to the data.
The just-passed atmospheric river gave California a lot of
precious, badly needed water. But how well did our
all-important reservoir systems do? For California, water
storage, above and underground are the key to California’s
economic fate. As of midnight Monday, California’s major
reservoirs keep getting more water from the weekend’s storm as
the runoff finds its way into them. … Shasta, the
state’s largest is only 25% full. But that’s less than half of
its normal volume this time of year. Lake Oroville: 31% full.
Trinity: 29% full; less than half of normal. New Melones:
37% full. San Luis: 24% full, not even half of normal.
Land and waterway managers labored
hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly
rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their
water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing
some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore
the state’s major floodplains.
The deadliest and most destructive
wildfire in California history had a severe impact on the water
system in the town of Paradise. Participants on our Oct. 2-4
Tour will hear from Kevin Phillips, general manager of
Paradise Irrigation District, on the scope of the damages, the
obstacles to recovery and the future of the water district.
The Camp Fire destroyed 90 percent of the structures in Paradise,
and 90 percent of the irrigation district’s ratepayer base. The
fire did not destroy the irrigation district’s water storage or
treatment facilities, but it did melt plastic pipes, releasing
contaminants into parts of the system and prompting do-not-drink
advisories to water customers.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the
Oroville Dam spillway.
In 2017, it is likely that no other water story grabbed as many
headlines in California and across the country as the flood
incident at Oroville Dam, the centerpiece of the State Water Project and
its largest water storage facility.
On our upcoming Northern California
Tour, we will spend time at the Oroville Dam visitor’s
center and meet with California Department of Water Resources
staff. You’ll see drone footage from February’s flood
incident, learn the engineering background on what led to it, and
hear about plans to stabilize the spillway before the next winter
storms and to finalize repairs by 2018.
One of the wettest years in California history that ended a
record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage
to be built above and below ground.
In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help
store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is
used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning
for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they
California Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird said
Tuesday that the February crisis with the broken spillway at
Oroville Dam offers an “important opportunity” to assess the
safety of the more than 1,400 dams in the state.
“We really want to use the focus on this to look at the issue of
dam safety in California,” he said during a hearing of the Senate
Natural Resources and Water Committee. “We have the best
inspection program of the 50 states but it is clear we can do
Work crews repairing Oroville Dam’s damaged emergency spillway
are dumping 1,200 tons of rock each hour and using shotcrete to
stabilize the hillside slope, an official with the Department of
Water Resources told the California Water Commission today.
The pace of work is “round the clock,” said Kasey Schimke,
assistant director of DWR’s legislative affairs office.
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership
with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an
excellent overview of climate change and how it is already
affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists
anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and
precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are
underway to plan and adapt to climate.
Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch
poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural
hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants,
rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation.
Excellent for elementary school classroom use.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to
California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of
water development and use in California. It includes sections on
flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery
systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water
quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as
water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of
the guide is a section on the human need for water.
A new look for our most popular product! And it’s the perfect
gift for the water wonk in your life.
Our 24×36 inch California Water Map is widely known for being the
definitive poster that shows the integral role water plays in the
state. On this updated version, it is easier to see California’s
natural waterways and man-made reservoirs and aqueducts
– including federally, state and locally funded
projects – the wild and scenic rivers system, and
natural lakes. The map features beautiful photos of
California’s natural environment, rivers, water projects,
wildlife, and urban and agricultural uses and the
text focuses on key issues: water supply, water use, water
projects, the Delta, wild and scenic rivers and the Colorado
Oroville Dam is the centerpiece of
the State Water
Project (SWP) and its largest water storage facility.
Located about 70 miles north of Sacramento at the confluence of
the three forks of the Feather River, Oroville Dam is an
earthfill dam (consisting of an impervious core surrounded by
sands, gravels and rockfill materials) that creates a
reservoir that can hold 3.5 million acre-feet of water.
This printed copy of Western Water examines California’s drought
– its impact on water users in the urban and agricultural sector
and the steps being taken to prepare for another dry year should