Here’s how low California’s reservoirs are and what to expect in the future

Jul 25, 2022 at 1:50pm

Kurt Snibbe

Here’s a look at the status of California’s reservoirs during another drought:

There has not been much good news about California’s water supply lately, but there could be some relief on the way. The North-of-Delta Offstream Storage project, often referred to as the planned Sites Reservoir, was authorized by Congress in 2003. The long delayed project got a financial boost in March when the federal government signaled its intent to loan the project nearly $2.2 billion — about half of the cost to design, plan and build it.

The proposal would flood what’s left of the town of Sites, which has just a handful of residents in a valley of the coastal range mountains in rural Colusa County. The new reservoir could increase Northern California’s water storage capacity by up to 15% and would hold enough water to supply about 1.5 million to 3 million households for one year — although much of the water would be for agricultural purposes.

What scientists are calling a megadrought caused by climate change and is the worst in 1,200 years has given the project new life. It is also in line to get about $875 million from a voter-approved bond, plus another $450 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The proposed reservoir is an offstream facility that would not dam a major river nor block fish migration or spawning. But environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, have said the project would take too much water from the Sacramento River, harming endangered salmon species.

Environmental reviews are continuing and it’s not likely there will be a groundbreaking until 2024.

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