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Little rain but plenty of water - so far

March 06, 2007

Although much of the Western United States has been in the throes of a drought that began around 2000, Southern California's taps have continued to flow, thanks to a giant system of aqueducts and storage reservoirs that draw from different regions. Here is a look at the drought and how this area's urban users have been largely protected from it so far.

The parched Western U.S.

Some of the worst of the Western drought is in the area of the Rocky Mountains drained by the Colorado River and its tributaries.


Water levels in major California reservoirs

Percentage of capacity (as of Feb. 16, 2007)

Shasta Reservoir: 77%

Lake Oroville: 83%

Folsom Lake: 54%

New Melones Lake: 82%

Millerton Lake: 42%

Pine Flat Reservoir: 50%

San Luis Reservoir: 95%

Pyramid Lake: 93%

Castaic Lake: 60%*

Diamond Valley Lake: 90%


*Water level in Castaic Lake is being restored after 2006 repair work


Most of the water supply for Southern California comes from elsewhere in California and the West via the California Aqueduct, the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Colorado River Aqueduct.


Key Western reservoirs and their levels

Although the California level is above average, reservoir levels in many other states reflect the drought in the West.

*--* State Reservoir capacity (Thousands of acre feet) Arizona 3,188 California 37,563 Colorado 5,566 Idaho 14,366 Montana 37,072 Nevada 1,448 New Mexico 6,708 Oregon 3,628 Utah 3,866 Washington 3,260 Wyoming 5,290



Lakes mead and Powell: Drought benchmarks

Flows into Lake Powell have been well below average since 2000, leaving Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which were then almost full, nearly half empty last year.


Sources: Bill Patzert, Jet Propulsion Laboratory; ESRI; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; California Department of Water Resources; National Drought Mitigation Center; USDA; NOAA. Graphics reporting by Mark Phillips


Recent regional explainer graphics are available at

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