Big Bear Lake Is Full

Two good winters in succession have filled Big Bear Lake, according to this piece in today’s Los Angeles Times (who also provide today’s photo):

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-big-bear-lake-20110417,0,6940979.story

For folks who don’t know, Big Bear Lake is a recreation area in the San Bernardino Mountains north and east of Los Angeles. It’s a beautiful spot that I have visited many times.

According to today’s article, this marks the first time in 15 years that the lake has completely filled. Excellent news for the water supply in SoCal. Although this lake is not a huge piece of the overall water supply picture, it is a great sign that things are much better than they have been for the past several years.

Looking beyond Big Bear, here is a link to the California Department of Water Resources reservoir summary page:

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/resapp/getResGraphsMain.action

The picture statewide is very good. However, there are two more components of water supply that we need to examine to get the full picture. First is the groundwater storage — and that is a tough one to summarize. I don’t know of a web site that provides statewide groundwater storage information. If anyone knows of such a site, please post a comment or send me an e-mail at mclean.stephen@ca.rr.com. But even without hard data, I think we can guess that the groundwater situation is much improved over the past several years, due to these two great winters.

The final significant storage component is the snow pack in the Sierra Nevadas. And the most important day of the year for the snow pack is only two weeks away: May 1 is the final day of snow surveys, and the semi-official end of the rain season in California. And a lot is riding on the findings of our intrepid snow survey teams that hike deep into the Sierras each month during the Winter and Spring to see how much water is locked in our snow pack.

As of today, the California Department of Water Resources still has this year’s allocation set at 70 percent of requests. Yes, even with record rainfall/snow pack conditions. I expect that they will increase this allocation following the May 1 snow survey, perhaps all the way to 100 percent.

But remember that DWR faces significant environmental restrictions on the delivery of water to their customers. And those restrictions alone may prevent them from delivering 100 percent — even if their reservoirs are all overflowing, and if significant Spring flooding is occurring downstream!

So Big Bear Lake is full, as are essentially all the reservoirs in the State. And we may still face water shortages. Unbelievable!

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