Shasta Lake at 38% capacity heading into the hottest months of the year

Traffic on Interstate 5 passes over Shasta Lake on the Pit River Bridge.
Traffic on Interstate 5 passes over Shasta Lake on the Pit River Bridge. California’s years-long drought has dropped the water level, leaving a “bathtub ring” at the lake.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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Shasta Lake, one of the state’s largest reservoirs, is currently at 38% capacity, a startling number heading into the hottest months of the year.

Shasta Lake is the reservoir of the federal Central Valley Project, the roughly 400-mile network of reservoirs and canals that pumps and ferries water largely to the San Joaquin Valley and portions of the San Francisco Bay Area. The reservoir is the driest it has been at this time of year since record-keeping first began in 1976.

For the record:

10:15 a.m. July 22, 2022An earlier version of this article stated that Shasta Lake is part of the State Water Project and that it pumps and ferries water to Southern California. Shasta Lake is actually the anchor reservoir for the federal Central Valley Project and sends water largely to the San Joaquin Valley and portions of the San Francisco Bay Area.

California relies on storms and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada to fill its reservoirs. The state received a hopeful sign of a wet winter in late December when more than 17 feet of snow fell in the Sierra Nevada. But the winter storms abruptly ceased, ushering in the driest January, February and March ever recorded. The drought over the past three years has been one of the most severe on record, and has been intensified by higher temperatures caused by global warming.

The reservoir is set to continue declining during California’s dry season this summer and fall. The coming winter is expected to determine whether and how much its levels recover.

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A houseboat is framed by deep bathtub rings from years-long drought at Shasta Lake in California.
A houseboat is framed by deep bathtub rings from years-long drought at Shasta Lake in California.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
The Pit River Bridge spans Shasta Lake, now at only 38% capacity.
The Pit River Bridge spans Shasta Lake, now at only 38% capacity.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Shasta Lake at dusk.
Shasta Lake at dusk.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Boats glide through the water at Shasta Lake near exposed shoreline
Boats glide through the water at Shasta Lake, where more and more shoreline is exposed.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
A powerboat glides through the depleted waters of Shasta Lake.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
People enjoy the shores of Shasta Lake.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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A boat glides through the water at Shasta Lake.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Traffic on Interstate 5 passes over Shasta Lake via the Pit River Bridge.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Years-long drought has dropped the water level at Shasta Lake to 38% capacity.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
The "bathtub ring" at Shasta Lake shows the drop in water level at the reservoir.
The “bathtub ring” at Shasta Lake shows the drop in water level at the reservoir.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)