DWR officials had warned that the plant could no longer generate power if water levels at Lake Oroville, California’s second-largest reservoir, fall below 640 feet above sea level. The six-turbine power plant had to be taken offline after the reservoir’s water level sank to an historic low of less than 642 feet, exceeding the previous all-time low of 643 feet, which was set in 1977.
The reservoir in the Sierra Nevada foothills is currently less than a quarter full and water elevations are forecast to reach as low as 620 feet by the end of October. DWR said the record-low levels are a result of the state’s drought that has intensified due to climate change. Although California consistently experiences drought, climate change has fueled high temperatures and dry soil that significantly reduced water runoff into reservoirs this spring.
DWR is working to “preserve as much water in storage as possible,” said Nemeth, noting that the department anticipated the shutdown and planned for a loss of water and grid management.
Gov. Gavin Newsom asked California residents in July to curb household water consumption by 15% to preserve water supply. Grid operators have also urged residents to limit electricity use to avoid blackouts as wildfires continue to scorch the state.
“Falling reservoir levels are another example of why it is so critical that all Californians conserve water,” Nemeth said.