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Filling Up

March 19, 1986

As recently as late January, California water managers worried that the state was headed into a drought cycle similar to that of a decade ago. Between October and January, the Sacramento River flowed at only half its average rate. State and federal reservoir operators were husbanding every gallon of water that they could. Still, reservoir levels were 25% below normal.

The state Department of Water Resources warned agricultural customers of the state Water Project that they could not expect to get all the irrigation supplies that they wanted for the summer. The Sierra snowpack was particularly sparse for midwinter, threatening limited supplies to both the Central Valley and the Owens Valley, the primary source for the City of Los Angeles.

All that has changed, of course. California is brimming, and the water-supply people are beaming. Even before the latest storms, stream-runoff forecasts for April-July had soared to 110% to 160% of average. All those forecasts had been for less than 85% the previous month.

It is tragically unfortunate for some that most of a year's water supply had to burst on California all at once. The silver lining, however, is the drought that didn't happen.

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