VIEWPOINTS: How Folsom Lake is Using Weather Forecasts to Manage Water Supply Amid Climate Change

By December 29, 2021Advocacy, News, News & Info

An atmospheric river dumped more than five inches of rain on Sacramento on Oct. 24, breaking a 24-hour rainfall record set in 1880. A week later, Folsom Lake was 16 feet deeper and 90,000 acre-feet fuller — a significant boost in supply for the region’s primary surface reservoir after one of the worst drought years ever.

Just a decade ago, water managers may not have been allowed to hold on to all that water in Folsom. But thanks to Rep. Doris Matsui and investments by local, state and federal officials over the past 10 years, Folsom has $1 billion in new hardware and rules that allow us to store the equivalent of up to two more storms of that size — enough to serve 400,000 homes for a year.

Most of that investment paid for a giant new spillway at Folsom, which helps release more water quickly. But it also paid for a new reservoir operations manual that incorporates the principles of forecast-informed reservoir operations. As the term suggests, decisions to release water from the reservoir are now guided more closely by weather forecasts, using real-time information to increase our region’s resilience in the face of climate realities.

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Patrick Kennedy is a Sacramento County supervisor. Robert Dugan is a Placer County Water Agency board member.