California’s largest reservoir filling too fast thanks to El Niño, must release more water


The El Niño-fueled storms that have swept through Northern California in recent weeks have swelled some of the state’s largest reservoirs to encouraging levels even as the state’s drought persists.

One of the biggest beneficiaries has been Lake Shasta, a keystone reservoir of the Central Valley project, which serves California growers.

To make room in Shasta for water from last weekend’s storms, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation ramped up releases from 5,000 cubic feet per second to 20,000 cubic feet per second on March 18. It was the first time since 2011 that the bureau released water into the upper Sacramento River at such a rapid rate, said spokesman Shane Hunt.


RELATED: Before and after photos of El Niño altering California landscape.

Officials began slowing the releases again on Wednesday, Hunt said. The rate is expected to return to around 5,000 cubic feet per second by Monday.

“We never got to the point where the increased releases drew the lake down at all,” Hunt said. “We just slowed how fast we were gaining.”

Lake Shasta, he added, is “still gaining storage and will continue to do so.”

On Thursday, Shasta was holding about 3.9 million acre feet of water, or 87% of its capacity and 110% of average for the day.

Lake Shasta is California’s biggest reservoir and a key source of water for the state.



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