New Water Year Underway, California Prepares for a Possible Wet El Niño Year

  • by Department of Water Resources
  • Oct 4, 2023
  • Water News

SACRAMENTO – The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today highlighted how the State and its federal and local partners are preparing for the new water year which started October 1 and the possibility of another wet season under strong El Niño conditions.

California’s investments in forecasting and emergency preparedness paid off during last season’s storm events and the State is incorporating lessons learned during the last water year and advancing the science and technology that will be critical to managing water in the coming years. DWR will utilize the most advanced forecasting tools with our partners like NOAA, Scripps, and others to prepare for whatever may come to California in the months ahead.

DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operate the State Water Project and Central Valley Project respectively, are closely coordinating to ensure the state’s reservoirs have flood space available under a second year of flood conditions as well as store as much water as possible in case of a return to drought conditions.

This past winter’s storms provided a huge boost to the State Water Project. Lake Oroville levels recovered and had the single biggest increase in the State Water Project’s history last year. The SWP was able to capture a total of 3.5 million acre-feet in reservoirs since December 1, 2022. Oroville is currently at 136 percent of historical average today, up from 64 percent of average a year ago. San Luis Reservoir, the jointly operated reservoir in Merced County, sits at 190 percent of historical average today, up from 67 percent this time last year. You can find additional reservoir levels at California Water Watch.

In addition to smart water management, DWR is working to prepare local communities for the threat of a second year of flood conditions. DWR is providing vulnerable communities with funding, flood fight training, and continued material support across the state. DWR is starting this water year with more flood fighting materials on hand than last year, including 2.4 million more sandbags, pre-positioned at more locations.

The State-Federal Flood Operations Center (FOC) is working with local counties and communities to provide flood fight training and pre-season emergency response coordination across the state to ensure vulnerable communities have the resources and training needed to respond to potential flooding. A list of those counties is available in the PowerPoint presentation linked below.

The Governor, in partnership with the Legislature, has invested a total of more than $430 million in the most recent budget to support flood response and projects to protect communities from future flooding.

As the new water year gets underway, communities and all Californians are urged to be aware of local flood risks, be prepared to evacuate and know your evacuation routes, and take action immediately when evacuation orders are issued by local authorities. State agencies are coordinating during California Flood Preparedness Week, October 21 – October 28 to help local communities prepare for possible flooding.

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