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Winter storms bring positive boost to local reservoirs

Posted at 5:59 PM, Jan 18, 2019

January’s storms certainly made an impact with tree-toppling winds and light debris flows, but it also brought positive change to San Luis Obispo County’s water supply. Local reservoirs got a much-needed boost.

“We’ve been looking at water levels that we saw back in 2016 to 2017. 2017 was the last year the lake was fully filled,” said Tim Colvin, Vice President of Marine Operations at Lake Nacimiento.

Lake Nacimiento’s capacity rose from 11 percent to about 30 percent. Rainy Rocky Butte helped make that happen.

“In the last ten days, we’ve seen a 35-foot elevation change in the lake,” said Colvin.

The water is nice to see and fun to play on, but it’s not ours to keep.

“Monterey County owns the land, they own the dam, they do not own the water. The water’s main purpose is for the Salinas Valley and the farmers,” Colvin added.

Water from Santa Margarita Lake and Lopez Lake does go to the residents of San Luis Obispo County, and those reservoirs got a boost too.

Santa Margarita Lake, which replenishes the City of San Luis Obispo, is sitting at 85 percent capacity, boasting a five percent increase in just two days.

“Right now, we’re about halfway to our forecasted average rainfall, which is good. We’re only in January,” said Ray Dienzo, Supervising Water Resources Engineer for San Luis Obispo County.

San Luis Obispo County’s yearly average is about 20 inches. Lopez Lake has seen ten inches since July 1, 2018.

Lopez Lake, which goes to residents in southern San Luis Obispo County, rose one percent and is at about 40 percent capacity. One percent makes more of a dent than you’d think.

“One percent is actually 435 acre-feet. That translates to about 1,300 homes that it can provide for in a year,” Dienzo said.

Dienzo says the more water that can be pulled from the surface of our local lakes, the better. That’s because groundwater levels don’t replenish as quickly.

To find more details on local reservoirs, click here.