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Storms add to reservoirs in Northern California

Bruce Warrington

The large storm that hit the West Coast last week added to reservoirs in Northern California but officials say the drought is far from over.

This year, a below-average amount of snowmelt flowed into the reservoirs during April and May. This, coupled with little precipitation, has resulted in low water levels in most reservoirs up and down the west coast.

In the summer, reservoirs in Northern California, such as Lake Shasta, are used to cool river water to save fish and protect water quality. They’re also used occasionally for agriculture or sent to cities. Without gains in storage in the winter, these reservoirs’ ability to help with water quality is severely limited.

Elizabeth Kiteck is with the Bureau of Reclamation. She says the recent storm did boost water levels, but parched soils absorbed most of the water.

“Because of the dry condition of the soils, we did not see as much runoff as we would if this was the third or fourth storm of the season because this was the first major storm,” says Kiteck.

Despite the promising sign of this early storm and next week's forecasted rains, Kiteck says projections for 2022 suggest a lower than average precipitation rate for Northern California.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.