Northern California already feeling effects of low water levels

Local News

FOLSOM, Calif. (KTXL) — The monthly snow survey conducted by the state water officials did nothing to change the prediction of a low water year and, possibly, a drought.

Northern California is not as bad off as the rest of the state when it comes to potential spring snowmelt, but the lack of rain and snow is making an impact.

Snow depths at the state measuring station near Echo Summit were better than expected, with 83% of average — but the site is an outlier.

The average for the state’s hundreds of other sites show snow levels at 59% of average.

“California’s largest reservoirs are only storing about half of their total capacity,” said Sean de Guzman, California Department of Water Resources chief of state snow surveys.

Folsom Lake’s ground underneath the snow is drier than normal. That means melting snow must soak into the ground before surface water runs off into state and federal reservoirs, where water levels are already low. 

“So we might not see that immediate runoff into the streams until we see more of that water percolate into the ground,” de Guzman said.

April storms in the Sierra can happen but are rare. Traditionally, the snowpack is at its peak during the April measurement.  

Thursday’s numbers will likely lay the foundation for the rest of the water year.

It’s one reason why water allocations to cities and farms have been cut drastically and there have been alerts for drought conditions by state water officials.

But that was not an immediate concern for beachgoers taking advantage of the warm weather at Browns Ravine at Folsom Lake Thursday. There was plenty of water for some recreational activities but not so much for others.

Nearly 700 slips at the Folsom Lake Marina were landlocked and the boat ramp serving was high and dry. Instead, hundreds of boats large and small were parked high above the waterline. 

Water levels are at just 60% of average.

Water releases to maintain the integrity of the Delta will soon slow, meaning water levels from Folsom Dam may rise for a short time, but it’s unknown for the long term.

“This year, water levels are pretty low,” said boater Barre Normann.

Normann was getting into Folsom for the first time this season. He had to endure the 5 mph speed limit dictated by the low water levels.

The lake will still have its use for non-boaters.

“There’s so many obstructs, so many obstacles out there that they can’t mark it when it gets down that low,” Normann said. “Five mph in no fun if you’re trying to do wakeboard or whatever.”

For now, water lovers will take what they can get.

Statewide officials say on the bright side, Californians are conserving water at a higher rate than in the pre-drought years, and that will be a big help during future water shortages.

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