The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

October 22, 2008
California's reservoirs at lowest levels in 14 years
Folsom Lake was brimming with water in July 2002, as shown above. By July of this year, as seen to the right, it was at 25 percent of capacity and steadily dropping. (Photos by Brian Baer and Randy Pench.)

As of Friday, there was only 15.8 million acre feet of water in California's reservoirs -- the lowest amount since 1994, according to Steve Nemeth of the state Department of Water Resources.

15.8 million acre feet isn't much of a savings account. Imagine Folsom Lake near Sacramento at full capacity. That's one million acre feet. Now imagine 15 of those reservoirs for a huge state with 37 million people and millions of acres of farm land.

The DWR says on its Web site that "California is facing the most significant water crisis in its history." That may be stretching it. In 1977, the state just had 7.6 million acre feet of water in storage following the driest year on record. And let's not forget the drought of 1928-34. Things got so dry that no fresh water from the Sacramento River reached the San Francisco Bay in 1931, according to Sue McClurg's book, "Water and the Making of California."

Of course, California has millions of more people now - and more valuable crops at stake - than it did in 1977 or 1931. So we can't afford another dry winter. Unless we plan on eating crow.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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