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California aiming to capture more storm runoff as reservoirs fill up

Posted at 9:44 PM, Jan 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-20 02:40:13-05

California is looking to capture more stormwater as reservoirs fill up across the state.

Lopez lake is looking a lot fuller after dropping to near-record low levels just a few months ago.

“Seeing the lake come up, it sells itself,” said Rick Mendoza who works at the Marina and says there is a lot of debris out on the water.

“We had a good amount, and I could see smaller boats getting damaged from the big logs and tree trunks.”

One dock that was sitting on dry ground until recently is now more of an island only reachable by wading into deep, muddy water.

“Even some part of the dock has broken off and washed right into the middle of the lake,” adds Mendoza.

Storm runoff is filling up Lopez Lake, but it’s a different story further downstream where floodwater washed into the ocean.

“It’s true that a lot of water does push out to the ocean from our rivers. Some of that is just a river doing what a river does,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot.

The State of California is now looking to capture more storm runoff to use during dry years.

“We’re really focused on updating our infrastructure to capture these intense winter storms,” said Crowfoot.

A key aspect of doing that is fast-tracking projects to recharge groundwater.

That involves allowing a community or irrigation district to divert more stormwater from a river or creek that is flooding.

“In some cases, it’s pushing it into local surface reservoirs or spreading grounds where the soil is well positioned to allow it to percolate very quickly,” explained Crowfoot. “In some cases, it’s literally spreading water on farms or orchards.”

The goal is to make California more resilient to sudden shifts from extreme drought to major flooding.

“The technology exists. Historically, there hasn’t been as much of a priority on that because our water supply has been a little more consistent,” adds Crowfoot.

Employees at the Lopez Lake Marina, meanwhile, are looking forward to a fuller lake this summer.

“Our people that love the lake that like to come out here, I’m excited for them as well because they’re going to have a blast,” said Mendoza

Recent storms are good for lake levels but have caused a lot of damage to roads and campgrounds. California is investing $8.6 billion in water resiliency.

Some of that money will also go toward expanding reservoir capacity and repairing infrastructure.