State has 132 percent of normal snowpack; fields wet, but crop damage minimal
By TIM HEARDEN
California's wet April is topping off some of the state's reservoirs, signaling relief from more than three years of drought.
With some areas receiving double and even triple the amount of rainfall they normally receive this month, the state's water storage system is up to 76 percent of capacity.
It was 59 percent of capacity at this time last year, said Louis Moore, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokesman.
At the center of that abundance is Shasta Lake, whose surface was within 8 feet of the crest as of April 27 after the lake collected 9.52 inches of rain for the month.
Eighteen of the state's 36 reservoirs are above their average storage levels for the year, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
"At this point things are definitely looking up," Moore said. "It's an improvement over definitely the past three years for sure."
Some reservoirs are still lagging, however, including Lake Oroville, which is at just 57 percent of capacity. That's less than it held a year ago, when the lake was at 59 percent of capacity.
But the state has 132 percent of its normal snowpack for this time of year, and snowpack in the northern Sierra Nevada range is 166 percent of normal, according to the DWR's California Data Exchange Center.
The wetter-than-normal April continued an El NiÃ±o tropical weather pattern that has been bringing moisture to California's Central Valley all winter.
Crop damage from the spring rains so far has been minimal, although the persistent showers have caused farmers to delay field work and the planting of rice, tomatoes, cotton and other row crops, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Earlier this month, the DWR raised its projection for this year's water allocations to cities and irrigators from 15 percent to 20 percent.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced on March 16 that irrigators north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta will get at least 50 percent of their normal allocations this year, while irrigators south of the delta can expect 25 percent.
"It's going to be increased quite a bit from what we had in April, no question about it," said Maury Roos, the state Department of Water Resources' chief hydrologist.
Water officials have shown reluctance to declare an end to the drought, arguing that it'll take more time for the state's water tables to recover from three dry years.
But Shasta Lake, which was at just 30 percent of capacity in December 2008, now holds the most water it's held since 2006, said Tami Corn, a Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman at Shasta Dam.
No water has been released from the lake, Corn said, as officials try to store as much of the water as possible.
"There are other reservoirs such as Trinity and Oroville that aren't faring as well," she said. "With them being down, we may be called upon to supplement a little bit more ... We have to be more mindful of the water picture as a whole for the state."
Here are the percentages of capacity for California reservoirs as of midnight April 26, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Trinity Lake: 59 percent
Shasta Lake: 95 percent
Lake Oroville: 57 percent
New Bullards Bar Reservoir: 80 percent
Folsom Lake: 79 percent
New Melones Reservoir: 52 percent
Lake McClure: 61 percent
Millerton Lake: 71 percent
Pine Flat Reservoir: 65 percent
Lake Isabella: 36 percent
San Luis Reservoir: 82 percent
Here are the National Weather Service's April and seasonal rainfall totals for selected California cities. Totals are as of Monday, April 5:
Redding: Month to date 4.58 inches (normal 2.16 inches); season to date 29.10 inches (normal 30.93 inches)
Sacramento: Month to date 2.46 inches (normal 0.94 inches); season to date 19.80 inches (normal 17.12 inches)
Stockton: Month to date 2.31 inches (normal 0.88 inches); season to date 13.89 inches (normal 13.17)
Modesto: Month to date 2.31 inches (normal 0.83 inches); season to date 14.07 inches (normal 12.36 inches)
Salinas: Month to date 3.27 inches (normal 0.88 inches); season to date 16.62 inches (normal 12.54 inches)
Fresno: Month to date 2.14 inches (normal 0.72 inches); season to date 12.10 inches (normal 10.57 inches)