It’s official: drought over, Castaic near capacity

FILE PHOTO. Kayakers find themselves alone in the wild expanse of Castaic Lake on Saturday. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

The drought is officially over, with water officials reporting reservoirs filling to capacity, including Castaic Lake and Lake Piru at 81 and 73 percent full, respectively.

“Castaic Lake is 92 percent of its historic average,” Chris Orrock, spokesman for the Department of Water Resources, said Monday.

“And, that is good news,” he said, referring to measurements showing the lake is as full as its been at the best of times.

Castaic Lake can hold as much as 320,000 acre-feet of water. One acre-foot of water is about the same as a football field under 1 foot of water. The lake is a reservoir, with most of its water earmarked for Los Angeles.

Reports of lakes filling to the brim come as good news to SCV Water officials.

“It has been a good water year for the state as a whole,” Steve Cole, assistant general manager for SCV Water, said Monday.

Historic rain

“Locally, we have received just over 19 inches of rain, which is slightly more than our historical average of around 17 inches,” Cole said. “We are noticing our local basins are responding well with increased groundwater levels. We do have a couple more storms that are forecasted so we will see where we end up as we finish out the year.”

For local water officials, the “water year” actually runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

The state’s most recent drought declared by former Gov. Jerry Brown lasted from 2011 to 2017, provoking the governor to set mandatory conservation targets and outlaw the watering of street medians, among other water-usage restrictions.

This season’s constant rain and cold fronts delivering snow to the Sierra Nevada has recharged natural reservoirs, the groundwater and deepened the Sierra Nevada snowpack — the natural reservoir that supplies the SCV with half its water. The other half of SCV water comes from groundwater wells.

“In 2017, we didn’t see as much rain as we’ve seen this year,” Orrock said. “And, colder rain.”

Resembling water glasses on a table, this graphic shows the amount of water in California’s reservoirs. Courtesy of the Department of Water Resources.

Deep snowpack

The most recent measurement of snow depth revealed a snowpack more than 9.5 feet deep.

“We are expecting more snow in other areas (of the Sierra Nevadas),” he said.

In 2017, Brown declared the drought over, with the exception of four specific areas in the Central Valley.

Recent reports made by the U.S. Drought Monitor, however, revealed that for the first time in seven years there are no drought like conditions across the state, Orrock said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, based in Nebraska, is a map released every Thursday, that shows those parts of the US that are in drought. Its map uses five classifications: abnormally dry, showing areas that may be going into or are coming out of drought, and four levels of drought: moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional.

All of the state’s reservoirs show near full capacity.

United Water Conservation District and its contractor, Parks Management Company, reported this week that Lake Piru is at its highest level in over a decade.

Lake Piru

United Water’s Lake Piru is now at 73 percent full, compare to only 15 percent full last October, said Mauricio Guardado, general manager for the United Water Conservation District.

The Reasoner Cove launch area at Lake Piru has now been reopened.

The Juan Fernandez Day Use Area and launch area will also reopen by May 1, 2019, with sand being brought in to develop a quality swim beach.

“This is great news for recreation and water enthusiasts. We encourage people to come and enjoy the day, boating, fishing, water skiing, jet skiing, swimming and evenings under the stars camping at Lake Piru,” said Guardado.

Advance reservations are encouraged and can be made for pontoon boats, fishing boats, kayaks and paddle boards, which are available for full-day or half-day rentals.

Many resources

And, while news of a filling Castaic Lake is great, local water remain quick to point out that the lake is one of many water resources exploited.

“We focus less on one reservoir, for example, Castaic and more on our portfolio of water resources,” Cole said.

That portfolio includes 95,200 acre-feet of water supplied from Northern California under terms of the State Water Project supply — currently allocated at 35 percent of the water SCV Water is normally entitled to this year, but expected to go up.

As well, SCV Water retains 11,000 acre-feet of water supply from our Buena Vista Rosedale Rio Bravo water purchase, our local groundwater resources, our groundwater banking projects, exchange agreements and recycled water.

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