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January 25, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Recent Rain and Los Angeles


Have recent rains eased Los Angeles’ water shortage? The short answer is, “Yes.” The longer answer is “Yes, but…”

Los Angeles has been experiencing a water shortage for decades. Interestingly,  water-use restrictions put in place have actually lead to a 15% savings across the Metro area while savings in the city itself have been even higher. Even the addition of more than 1 million people since 1984 has resulted in less water usage today, as compared to twenty five years ago. Still the water shortages continue. Most of California’s rainfall occurs from December through April with the active winter Pacific storm season. However most of the city’s water needs peak in the summer months forcing water to be delivered from other regions. This means that supplying Los Angeles with water is less about current levels and more about ensuring future levels.

California’s State Water Project delivers water via a system including 22 dams and reservoirs, pumping plants and a 444-mile long aqueduct. The Colorado River also brings water to Los Angles and southeastern California via the Colorado River Aqueduct. Owens Lake, Mono Lake and reservoirs on the eastern slopes of the Sierra also feed LA’s thirst

Lake Mead, fed by the Colorado, is a water source for many areas of the Southwest. Since 1937, Lake Mead has spent a good portion of time at average or above average levels, peaking in 1984 at 1,229ft. Since 2000, lake levels have been in decline. A brief surge in late 2004 was reversed in early 2005. In 2010 the lake’s water level is near the bottom of the 75-year recorded history. Only in 1965 and 1956 were levels only slightly lower.

Though record rainfall has occurred in the past two weeks, and more is on the way, the water shortage in the Southwest will have to rely on the technology to capture and store what has already fallen. We’ll check back in August.

Lake Mead seen from Pearce Ferry, 2004. []

Lake Mead seen from the Hoover Dam. Water level is at 49% of capacity. [Wiki]

The Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. [Wiki]




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