The state has wasted enough water to meet the needs of 80 million people for a year

By Katy Grimes, April 7, 2021 4:13 pm

In an aerial view, a truck drives on the Enterprise Bridge over a section of Lake Oroville on April 27, 2021, in Oroville, California. As of June 7, 2021, water levels at Lake Oroville had dropped to 37 percent of its capacity. #
Justin Sullivan / Getty

AccuWeather reports a snow survey in California revealed that the state only received about 50% of its average precipitation during the 2021 water year, tying it for its third-driest on record.

As for water storage, AccuWeather says:

Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface-level reservoir, recorded 65% of what is considered average.

Lake Oroville, the largest reservoir within the State Water Project, a 700-mile-long water storage and delivery system, is at 53% of average. The State Water Project supplies water for over 27 million people and irrigates about 750,000 acres of farmland.

Statewide, Sean De Guzman, chief of snow surveys for the California Department of Water Resources, said the largest reservoirs are holding around half of their total capacity. When current snowpack melts, reservoirs in the state are still only expected to be filled up to 58% of average capacity.

What they don’t say is that the state has been letting water out of reservoirs across California for months now.

And it’s not going to farmers, growers, ranchers or urban use. Environmental policy says the water “flows” from reservoirs are necessary to produce a rebound of endangered Delta smelt and Chinook salmon. However, these policies are a failure as neither species have been collected in all of the latest trawling surveys, where they spend several days a month searching in more than 200 spots. This practice of releasing water and hoping fish improve, has been unsuccessful for nearly 30 years, according to Kristi Diener, a California water expert and third-generation Central Valley farmer. Both species are close to extinction.

Delta Smelt. (Photo: Twitter CDFW)

Meanwhile, as the reservoir water flows are not saving fish at all, the State of California has known we are heading into a multi year drought. But northern reservoir managers have continued to release water through the Delta, and into the Pacific Ocean anyway.

Diener explains what is really going on in her “California Water for Food and People Movement:”

“Less than two years ago, every reservoir in the state was brimming with water, and held a supply to last a minimum of five dry years without another drop of rain.

Shasta and Oroville by themselves held enough water to meet the needs of 80 million people for a year.

With 25 million receiving water from these sources, those two reservoirs alone could deliver water for more than three years. But the majority of that stored water has been released to the ocean for ongoing environmental causes that have not benefitted a single endangered fish. Water managers claim the problem is families are not conserving enough. They are now recommending only using water for drinking and sanitation, and to stop watering any landscape that is not edible. Many property owners are already trucking in water.”

“50% of California’s water supply goes to environmental uses, 40% is converted to the food we eat and the clothes we wear, and the remaining 10% is for urban use. Families did not waste their way into a water shortage and cannot conserve their way out. Saving 25% of a 10% use equals 2.5%. Ongoing water releases continue to put fish over people, and both are suffering. More water rights holders than ever before are about to receive stop-using-water notices.”

“There is no accountability whatsoever to show positive results for the water continuously taken from the human supply. The governor appointed peeps in the CDFW spend hundreds of millions of our dollars on everything from studies and monitoring, to decades of supposed habitat restoration. They have failed the fishing industry big time, in addition to drying up the water supply for farmers and families.”

President Trump Wades In

Just last year in February 2020, then-President Donald Trump signed an order to divert water in Northern California from the San Francisco Bay area to the Central Valley, to help farmers and ranchers in the San Joaquin Valley get access to more water after years of inadequate amounts of water and generally poor water quality. The order was widely seen as likely since in the last several months protections on some central and northern California fish populations, such as the chinook salmon, were lifted in October of last year as California Globe reported.

In October 2018, President Trump signed a memorandum on “Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West”which included guidance and direction on the process. (DOI news release) In the President’s memorandum, he says “Decades of uncoordinated, piecemeal regulatory actions have diminished the ability of our Federal infrastructure, however, to deliver water and power in an efficient, cost‑effective way,” also warning that unless addressed right now, “fragmented policies and fragmented regulation of water infrastructure will continue to produce inefficiencies, unnecessary burdens, and conflict among the Federal Government, States, tribes, and local public agencies that deliver water to their citizenry.”

As California Rep. Tom McClintock has said for years, “droughts are naturally occurring, water shortages are man-made.” He also has warned for many years, “We live in one of the most water-rich regions of the country – yet we have not built a major reservoir in this state since 1979. 

Meanwhile, the population has nearly doubled.  The sad, simple fact is that we will NEVER solve our water problems until we start building new dams once again.”

Visit California Department of Water Resources for current Reservoir conditions.

Precipitation data, real time, daily and monthly records are located at the California Data Exchange Center website.



Katy Grimes

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California’s War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?