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Lake Shasta’s reservoir nears capacity, easing water supply concerns, California

lake shasta march 20 2023 f

The water level in Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir, has risen significantly this month, providing relief to local residents who rely on the water source. As of March 28, over half of the state (55.34%) had no drought, with severe to exceptional drought conditions (D2-D4) covering just 1.95% of the area.

Lake Shasta’s water level has risen to within 9.5 m (31 feet) of the top as of March 29, 2023, reaching 82% of its capacity. This increase is good news for Redding and North State residents who depend on the reservoir for their water needs.

Over the past week, the lake’s level has risen by 2.7 m (9 feet), as Shasta Dam received about 100 mm (4 inches) of rain during that time, according to Don Bader, area manager of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Since December 1, the lake’s level has increased by 36 m (118 feet).

Bader is optimistic that the Bureau of Reclamation will not need to start releasing more water through Shasta Dam to manage flood risk this spring.

With storm events less likely to be severe later in the season, Bader expects Lake Shasta to continue rising and be near full by late spring.

In late February, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that junior water rights holders, which include several water districts in Shasta County and the city of Shasta Lake, would receive 75% of their allotments. These allocations have since increased to 100%. Senior water rights holders, such as the city of Redding and Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District, were already set to receive 100% of their largest contracts with the bureau.

Bader anticipates that the Bureau of Reclamation will begin increasing water flows from Shasta Dam to agricultural users in late April.

lake shasta march 20 2023 bg
Lake Shasta on March 20, 2023. Credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, EO Browser, The Watchers
lake shasta march 20 2022 bg
Lake Shasta on March 20, 2022. Credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, EO Browser, The Watchers

In recent months, California has experienced a significant decrease in drought conditions thanks to heavy rainfall from numerous atmospheric rivers.

As of March 28, over half of the state (55.34%) had no drought, with severe to exceptional drought conditions (D2-D4) covering just 1.95% of the area, according to data provided by US Drought Monitor.

In contrast, one year ago, severe to exceptional drought conditions covered over 93% of the area.

california drought monitor march 30 2023 map

The Drought Severity Index (DSCI) for California is currently at 75, indicating a relatively mild drought. This is a significant improvement compared to one year ago when the DSCI was at 334, indicating severe and extensive drought conditions.

The severe drought conditions that California experienced one year ago had significant implications for the state’s economy, environment, and communities. The lack of rainfall and snowpack led to reduced water supplies for agriculture and drinking water, increased wildfire risks, and negative impacts on natural ecosystems.

CurrentMarch 28, 202355.3444.6628.111.950.000.0075
Last WeekMarch 21, 202348.5151.4935.888.490.000.0096
3 Months AgoDecember 27, 20220.00100.0097.9480.5635.507.16321
Start of Calendar YearDecember 27, 20220.00100.0097.9480.5635.507.16321
Start of Water YearSeptember 27, 20220.00100.0099.7694.0140.9116.57351
One Year AgoMarch 29, 20220.00100.00100.0093.6540.250.00334
Drought Monitor – California. Data valid March 28, 2023


1 Lake Shasta rises 118 feet, now nearly 30 feet from the top as California storms roll in – Record Searchlight – March 29, 2023

2 California drought monitor – March 30, 2023

Featured image: Lake Shasta on March 20, 2023. Credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, EO Browser, The Watchers


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