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By Brigitte Garcia


January 18, 2016 (San Diego's East County) - El Niño has brought flooding since it has arrived in California this winter, but now those heavy rains may finally be doing something to help us. The snowpack is higher than it has been in years, and reservoir levels in San Diego County are looking better than they have in the last four years of drought.


San Vicente in Lakeside, our largest local reservoir, is over 61% capacity, while Lake Murray is at more than 89% and Lower Otay is over 84%.  But some other reservoirs remain low, such as El Capitan at just under 28%, Lake Barrett at about 5% and Lake Morena, which the city of San Diego has continued to drain despite the rains, is a mere puddle of its former self at just over 2% capacity.    


Statewide, the snowpack is at 110% of normal--halfway to its goal, with more than two months left before the season ends April 1st.  State and local officials are cautiously optimistic that reservoirs here and across California may continue to have rising water levels, after years of little rain.


The California Water Action Plan has been updated and has given a look into what the state might do with El Nino type conditions to boost state water water supplies, beyond waiting for reservoirs to fill up.“There is increased focus on projects with multiple benefits, such as stormwater capture and floodplain reconnection, that can help simultaneously improve the environment, flood management and water supplies,” the plan states.


The main goals of the plan aim to make sure that the drought-reducing rain we hope for doesn’t create more damage than good: “The California Water Action Plan has been developed to meet three broad objectives: more reliable water supplies, the restoration of important species and habitat, and a more resilient, sustainably managed water resources system (water supply, water quality, flood protection, and environment) that can better withstand inevitable and unforeseen pressures in the coming decades."


With the time we have left in winter, instead of complaining about the dark clouds and downpours that El Nino may bring and wishing for sunshine to return, remember that we’re still in a drought.  Future rains will be providing what’s needed -- helping our environment and providing our state’s needs for precious water.


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