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Big Storm Could Boost Water Storage, San Luis Reservoir

Jan 6, 2017

This weekend’s storm could be good news for valley farmers, who hope they’ll be able to store some of the anticipated runoff.

Ara Azhderian is the water policy administrator for the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which represents 29 water contractors that use the San Luis Reservoir. He says the outlook for 2017 is already good.

Azhderian: “For Northern California the storage is great, the drought is essentially over, the question is now not really about water supply but how much water can we move in the context of environmental regulation.”

And by moving water he means pumping it south from the Delta to San Luis, where it’s stored and sent to farmers in the valley and urban users in the Bay Area and Southern California.

Azhderian: “In the coming days there will be so much water in the system that even with the environmental regulations in place we’re going to be able to pump at maximum capacity, the duration of that is perhaps a week or so.”

He says the state and federal pumps in the Delta could be operating at their maximum capacity by the end of the weekend. Beyond that he says a new law signed by President Obama last month could allow more pumping after the storm passes.

Azhderian: “What the law mandates is that the projects and the fish agencies then evaluate the potential to continue to capture that stormwater beyond that. That evaluation is underway now, and our view is the conditions are good where we would be able to continue pumping and be environmentally protective of fish species at the same time."

San Luis Reservoir is currently at 63 percent of its capacity. Azhderian says the last time it was full was in 2011 before the drought began. He said it might take two months to completely fill San Luis.