Lake Shasta water level reaches 4-year high. What it means for Shasta Dam water flows (2024)

Jessica SkropanicRedding Record Searchlight

Lake Shasta has reached water levels not seen since 2019, according to California officials. That abundance means more water will pour out of Shasta Dam this spring as the power plant begins running at full capacity.

The reservoir got a big influx after winter storms dumped enough rain and snow on western Shasta County to surpass historic averages, according to the National Weather Service. It's a refreshing change after three years of drought.

As of Tuesday morning, Shasta Dam Reservoir is at 93% of its capacity, said Donald Bader, area manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam. That’s 13% higher than its 30-year historic average.

Monday’s light rain showers added a few 100ths of an inch to the reservoir’s total, said meteorologist Eric Kurth at the weather service’s Sacramento office on Tuesday morning. A few scattered showers on Tuesday afternoon could add another few hundredths before the weather turns warm this weekend.

And more water is on the way as snow melts in spring and early summer, Kurth said.

But there’s room for more in California's largest man-made reservoir. As of Tuesday morning, the water level at Shasta Dam "is 11 feet from the top of the spillway gates,” Bader said.

Even with heavy snow in late February and heavy rain storms in March, it’s not likely water levels will rise so high they spill over the dam's top gates, Bader said. However, "we will soon increase flows out of Shasta Dam by operating the power plant to full generation.That will help us to manage the inflows to just creep up to near full in the next several weeks.”

More water in the reservoir now means less trouble down the line, he said. Besides having (Lake) Shasta start out the summer months at full capacity,” it’s encouraging “that at the end of the summer, the reservoir will be much higher than we experienced the last three years," Bader said. “This will get us off to a good start to hopefully re-fill the reservoir next winter.”

The last time Lake Shasta water levels went above 90%, COVID wasn’t yet a household word.

In 2019, the lake reached 99% of its capacity, coming within 2.5 feetof the top of the dam’s spill gates, Bader said.

It would take a lot of rain and snowmelt to push lake waters to 2019 levels this year.

From October 2018 through April 18, 2019, Shasta Dam got almost 85 inches of rain, reaching 142% of its historic average, Kurth said. Since Oct. 1, 2022, the dam got slightly above 68 inches.

That’s still a big bump over the annual average rainfall, which is 56.5 inches, Kurth said. Shasta Dam is “at 120% of normal. Last year it was at 74%” on April 18.

Redding's weather forecast

Redding’s rain and snow levels this year pushed past historic averages, too, Kurth said. Since Oct. 1, 2022, the Redding airport got more than 36 inches of rain; almost seven inches above ― and 123% of ― its historic average.

Keswick Dam got 50.70 inches, Kurth said. The annual average wasn’t available on Tuesday.

More: Will Shasta Dam open spillway gates as more rain, snowmelt raise Lake Shasta water level?

With most of the rain behind us ― Redding got a couple hundredths of an inch on Monday, Kurth said ― this weekend could be a great time to play at Lake Shasta, Whiskeytown and other outdoor venues. However, the water is still cold and moving fast in places, according to the U.S. Forest Service, so check conditions before you set sail or wade in.

The Redding area will see partly cloudy skies on Wednesday and sunnier skies on Thursday through the weekend, Kurth said.

Redding will get light frosts Wednesday and Thursday mornings when temperatures dip into the mid-30s, but by the weekend, nighttime temperatures won’t go below 50, he said.

Starting Friday, Redding temperatures could warm to 80 degrees, Kurth said. Afternoon temperatures over the weekend will hover in the 70s before they cool down again next week.

More: Lake Shasta rises 118 feet, now nearly 30 feet from the top as California storms roll in

Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and news stories.Followher on Twitter @RS_JSkropanicand on Facebook. Join Jessica in theGet Out! Nor Calrecreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.

Lake Shasta water level reaches 4-year high. What it means for Shasta Dam water flows (2024)

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