It’s Lake Oroville the latest reservoir in the west to descend to a new minimum. The reservoir is so empty that one large hydroelectric power plant had to be shut down months before officials expect in late June, reflecting the deteriorating situation throughout the state.
“DWR State Water Project Operations Managers shut down Hyatt Power Plant on Lake Oroville due to falling lake levels,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the Water Resources Department. – it is stated in the announcement. “This is the first time the Hyatt Powerplant has been shut down due to low lake levels.”
State data shows tthe tank has only 24% capacity, which is lower than at any time since the tank is fiin 1967. That includes the drought of the 1970s, as well as the severe drought that hit California in the mid-2010s. The declining water supply means that there are not enough turbines in the hydroelectric power plant to rotate and produce electricity. At full capacity, the Hyatt power plant can squeeze enough juice to power 800,000 homes, according to CNN.
The loss of a key source of hydropower means California may have to meet more electricity needs using other means, such as natural gas-fired power plants. This is especially true on days when the heat is increasing and people need more electricity for air conditioning.
Officials began caring for Lake Oroville in June, just as drought began to affect water resources more deeply in the state and throughout the West. They began preparations to stop energy production when the tank level dropped below 640 feet (195 meters), saying it was likely to happen within two to three months. But the day when the dam could no longer produce energy came earlier than expected. On Friday, the lake had a height of 195.5 meters. (And yes, tank level measurements are so specific.)
It’s a pretty shocking turn for a reservoir that just four years ago was in danger of blowing up the dam that holds it back thanks also a lot of water. Heavy winter rains have caused great erosion of the overflow, putting the entire dam in danger. Fortunately, the worst did not happen. But climate change is increased the chances of bad weather in California between the extremely wet and dry years and the wild swing on Lake Oroville perfectly sums up the challenges posed by the whip.
“This is just one of the many unprecedented impacts we are experiencing in California as a result of our climate-induced drought. California and much of the western United States are experiencing the effects of accelerated climate change, including record low reservoirs due to dramatically reduced runoff this spring, Nemeth said.
Similar scenes are being played all over the West. Lake Powell i Lake Mead, the two largest reservoirs in the country, are at a record low. Great Salt Lake? Also a record low. Although not used for drinking, the lake has a vital ecological role. Elsewhere, low water levels have led to extremely hot rivers and streams, leading to the death of endangered and endangered salmon. California,, Oregon, i Wyoming. (Lake Oroville operators have said they will manage the water to keep currents – and hopefully temperatures – below the dam at reasonable levels.)
The Western water crisis has been fueled by climate change and exacerbated by water use in a region where population growth and agriculture are stretch resources to extremes. He has to give something, and the hydropower on Lake Oroville seems to be the first. But that’s it it certainly won’t be the last.