Dramatic photos of Lake Oroville depict California’s worsening drought

New drone photos of Lake Oroville, California’s second-largest reservoir, bring home the stark reality of the state’s worsening drought.

The images, taken by photographer Justin Sullivan on Tuesday, show the massive lake in Butte County just 42% full. That’s only half of its historic average for this date.

Houseboats are dwarfed by the steep banks of Lake Oroville on April 27, 2021 in Oroville, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) 

Built in the 1960s by former Gov. Edmund “Pat” Brown, Jerry Brown’s father, the reservoir holds 3.5 million acre feet when full — enough water for about 18 million people a year. The massive reservoir captures water from the Feather River watershed, and its dam is the tallest in the United States, at 770 feet tall.

The dam’s spillway famously collapsed during massive storms in 2017. A $1 billion construction project has since rebuilt it and upgraded the dam. The last time Lake Oroville was this low was during the 2012-2016 drought, and its images became one of the symbols of California’s historic water shortage during that crisis.

Why does this lake in rural Northern California, about 75 miles north of Sacramento, matter so much?

Lake Oroville is a key component in the State Water Project — a massive system of 21 dams and 701 miles of pipes and canals that moves water from Northern California to the south. The State Water Project essentially takes melting snow from the Sierra Nevada, captures it and transports it from Lake Oroville through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta all the way to San Diego. In doing so, it provides drinking water for 27 million people from Silicon Valley to the Los Angeles basin and irrigates about 750,000 acres of farmland.

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Low water levels are visible at Lake Oroville on April 27, 2021 in Oroville, California. Four years after then California Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order to lift the California’s drought emergency, the state has re-entered a drought emergency with water levels dropping in the state’s reservoirs. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) 

But after two dry winters in a row, there isn’t much water to transport. Last month, the state Department of Water Resources announced that it expects to deliver just 5 percent of requested supplies this year. The final allocation will be announced in May.

“We are now facing the reality that it will be a second dry year for California and that is having a significant impact on our water supply,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the state Department of Water Resources, at the time.

A truck drives on the Enterprise Bridge over a section of Lake Oroville on April 27, 2021 in Oroville, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) 

On April 1, typically the end of the winter snow season, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, the source of nearly one-third of California’s water, was 59% of average. Last year on April 1, it was 54% of normal. Meanwhile, rainfall levels in most Bay Area cities are currently at 35% to 40% of normal.

Reservoir levels in other parts of the state, particularly …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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