Water & Drought

January storms give a much-needed boost to SLO County reservoirs

How January rains helped SLO County’s lakes

Lake and reservoir levels in San Luis Obispo County, California, have increased after the recent storms brought a sizable amount of rain to the Central Coast and the average up to 130 percent for this time of year.
Up Next
Lake and reservoir levels in San Luis Obispo County, California, have increased after the recent storms brought a sizable amount of rain to the Central Coast and the average up to 130 percent for this time of year.

San Luis Obispo County reservoirs got a boost from the recent storms that swept through the Central Coast in recent weeks.

Most areas of the county got 1 to 2 inches of rain from Jan. 16 to 17, in addition to a weekend of precipitation from Jan. 5 to Jan. 7 and other smaller weather systems in between.

Combined, the storms translated into modest gains for some reservoirs and sizable increases for others.

Nevertheless, SLO County is experiencing moderate drought conditions, as of Jan. 15, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Just two weeks prior, however, parts of the county were still in a severe drought.

droughtupdate.JPG
A U.S. Drought Monitor map shows how drought conditions in San Luis Obispo County improved from Jan. 8 to Jan. 15. U.S. Drought Monitor

Overall for the season, the Central Coast has recorded rainfall totals that are roughly 130 percent of average for late January, according to John Lindsey, a PG&E meteorologist.

Lake Nacimiento has seen the most improvement of all the county’s reservoirs, adding about 20 percentage points to its storage during the course of the month.

The reservoir — which is located in northwestern SLO County but managed by Monterey County — was 11 percent full on Jan. 1, according to German Criollo, an associate hydrologist for the Monterey County Water Resources Agency.

On Tuesday, it was at 31 percent of capacity, Criollo said.

The lake’s fluctuating levels have been the subject of controversy in recent years. Nacimiento’s primary purpose is as a water source for Salinas Valley farmers.

The Nacimiento Regional Water Management Advisory Committee (NRWMAC), an organization representing lakeside property owners, on Jan. 15 filed a lawsuit against Monterey County, claiming officials drained too much water from the reservoir to the detriment of recreational users.

SMargLake095
Santa Margarita Lake is at 86 percent of its capacity following a series of storms. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Elsewhere in the North County, Santa Margarita Lake gained almost 7 percentage points from the beginning of the month, according to the SLO County Public Works Department. The lake, also known as the Salinas Reservoir, started January at 79 percent and is now at nearly 86 percent of capacity following the storms.

Reservoirs in the South County and on the North Coast were also bolstered by the storm.

Lopez Lake started the month at 39 percent of capacity. As of Tuesday, it was about 41 percent full, according to SLO County Public Works.

Whale Rock Reservoir in Cayucos is at 75 percent of capacity — up from 73 percent on Jan. 1, according to Ed Humphrey, Whale Rock’s water supply operator, who hasn’t seen any significant problems from the stormy month.

“Nothing major — no big impacts on erosion or anything like that,” Humphrey said. “Just hoping for some more (rain) to back it up.”

For updates on SLO County reservoir levels, visit wr.slocountywater.org.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

  Comments