What The Recent Storms in California Mean for Agriculture

    Keeping track of California's reservoirs (USA Rice)

    SACRAMENTO, CA – With the widely reported series of storms in California, it is important to keep in mind the fundamentals that will drive the ultimate impacts on agriculture when the spring irrigation season arrives.

    The good news is that reservoir levels across the state are beginning to recover from the drought levels of the previous three years.  This is particularly true in the central and southern portions of the state, which to date have seen the largest impacts from the recent storms.  As a matter of perspective, current storage levels across all reservoirs are about the same as this time last year – below their historical averages but gaining each day.

    The better news is that the snowpack across the state is well above average for the year.  In some cases, snow levels are nearing the season total average which typically peaks in April.  This is good news for reservoirs that rely on snowpack to contribute to storage for the year.  Importantly, Lake Shasta and several other key impoundments that contribute to irrigation supply are not as dependent on snow melt.  They rely to a greater degree on rainfall.

    The final determination of surface water availability for agriculture in California will not be known until April, when state and federal agencies are able to evaluate the full wet season impacts on reservoirs and calculate expected runoff from the snowpack.  Meanwhile we will keep praying for rain in the right amounts and in the right locations!

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