Low water in Lake Oroville during the summer of 2021. Photo by DWR.

DWR NEWS: State water project advances efforts to prepare for future droughts amid a changing climate

From the Department of Water Resources:

The California Department of Water Resources has finalized its first comprehensive, public-facing Long-term Drought Plan for the State Water Project as part of an expanded effort to prepare for future droughts and extreme dry conditions.

Specifically, the Long-term Drought Plan includes an assessment of the potential impacts of drought on the State Water Project, including the possibility that California’s shift to a hotter, drier future may result in more severe droughts and reduced water availability. This is an important step for the State Water Project which supplies water to 27 million Californians, two-thirds of the State’s population.

“While California is coming off of two straight years of above average precipitation and adequate reservoir levels across the state, we need to plan for the next drought because it is right around the corner,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The State Water Project’s Long-term Drought Plan keeps us on a path to ensuring continued access to a clean, reliable water supply in the future.”

The Long-term Drought Plan compiles information and actions taken by the State Water Project during previous droughts, outlining how those actions have informed current operations and highlighting actions taken by the State Water Project to prepare for future droughts. Previously, this information was spread across multiple organizational practices, processes, and reports. It has now been combined into a comprehensive report available to the public. The plan outlines multiple actions that improve long-term drought resilience and add flexibility, efficiency, and capacity to the system.

The actions include:

  • Advancing the Delta Conveyance Project to modernize State Water Project infrastructure in the Delta to improve the ability to capture and store more water during high flow events.
  • Identifying and investigating water storage opportunities throughout the state to allow for more water storage in wet years for use in dry years.
  • Further planning for the use of drought salinity barriers on the West False River in extreme dry years and expansion of the program to locations in the North Delta to protect water quality during severe drought.
  • Continued advancement of DWR’s Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) along with improved seasonal forecasting to maximize water supply management while improving flood protection at Oroville Reservoir.
  • Investing in environmental resiliency through habitat creation, restoration of tidal wetlands, floodplains, and rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids.

The plan will be reviewed and updated every five years and after major drought events to ensure the State Water Project continues to adapt to dry conditions exacerbated by climate change.

Additional Information:

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