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Sites Reservoir Is a Solution to California’s Megadrought

November 5, 2022

Existing Tehama Colusa Canal Authority Fish Screens

When it comes to water, California continues to break records, and not the kind we like to brag about.

According to a recent study by Nature Climate Change, the West Coast’s drought has worsened so much in one year, that it is now the driest in at least 1,200 years and is a worst-case climate change scenario playing out live. In fact, it’s being labeled as a “megadrought.”

As we close out a brutally dry summer, many water suppliers are leaning more on their stored water supplies.

In many ways, Sites Reservoir is exactly what a state burdened by droughts needs. Sites would capture and store water from the Sacramento River during big, flashy rain storms — after all other water rights and regulatory requirements are met — and is made available to California’s environment, communities, and farms when it’s most needed — especially during times of drought.

Here in Southern California, we are utilizing all the tools in our toolbox —recycling, conservation, desalination, groundwater replenishment, and yes, more water storage. Although Sites is located in Glenn and Colusa counties up north, public water agencies throughout California have the opportunity to invest in Sites to secure more water for the customers they serve.

Sites Reservoir is looking to make a big impact on water supply while keeping its environmental footprint small. The project does not dam any major river. Sites is designed to help the environment, not cause harm. And a large portion of the water saved in Sites is specifically set aside for fisheries and the environment during dry years.  This is a first of its kind and a model for successful future water management.

If Sites had been in place prior to 2021, we could have captured and stored much of the excess prior years flood flows for use in what was a very dry year, and California would have had an additional 1 million acre-feet of water available for use during 2021 when it was badly needed.  And a good portion of that water would have been held over for use in 2022 which is an equally bad or worse water year.

Sites can best be described as an insurance policy. And if the scientific projections are correct about the impacts of climate change, then having Sites Reservoir will mean we will be able to collect even more water in the reservoir for use during future extended droughts.

The Sites Project Authority is advancing Sites Reservoir because our state needs more water during dry years. And we’re proud the project is supported by local water agencies, irrigation districts, and municipalities across California. We’re also proud to have the State and Federal government investing in the project.

It’s critical that we continue to invest in a broad range of solutions to ensure a resilient water future, and Sites Reservoir would increase water storage, help alleviate symptoms, and address the impacts of a megadrought. It’s time to build Sites now.

Listen to our What Matters Water TV and Podcast all about Sites Reservoir.

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