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Climate and Environment

Recent Storms Brought More Water To Fight The Drought, But Let’s Not Get Too Excited (Yet)

An image from above of a reservoir in Lake Oroville at low levels. The area without the needed amount of water is visible on the sides of the lake. A bridge across the lake is in the background. Boats are in a marina.
Water levels at Lake Oroville, the State Water Project's second-largest reservoir, are at their highest levels in nearly three years. Still, the reservoir, shown here on Jan. 12, is far from full after the recent storms.
(Andrew Innerarity
California Department of Water Resources)
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The California Department of Water Resources announced Thursday that cities and farms are expected to receive more water from the State Water Project than last year. Water providers such as LADWP could get 30% of the maximum water they need, up from the measly 5% they received in 2022 after the driest three-year period in more than a century.

Why it matters: The recent, seriously wet weeks have helped significantly, but things could still change quickly. Last year, for example, we got record rain and snow in December, followed by a record dry January, February and March — a mark of the rapid climate “whiplash” scientists have warned is a consequence of carbon pollution.

Drought context: Drought doesn’t look the same across the state, and different types of water sources — from groundwater to surface water to snowpack — recover from drought on different timelines. While above-average Sierra Nevada snowpack from recent storms has allowed cautious optimism, those storms did little to help the Southland's other major source of water: the Colorado River. And if heat comes too soon — an increasing impact of the climate emergency — snow could melt too quickly and overwhelm reservoirs, putting communities in danger and hurting the water supply.

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What's next: The state will finalize the allocations from the State Water Project in late April or May. For now, current local water restrictions remain (they vary by what city or county you live in, so check with your local water provider). Angelenos can still only water outside twice a week, though hand-watering trees and food gardens is allowed as needed.

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