Here’s an indicator of just how bad California’s drought currently is:
Mercury News reports that the water level at California’s Lake Oroville — the site of the tallest dam in the United States — has dropped to a record low.
An incredible change
Those who live in the area will likely remember what happened about four years ago. Bad winter storms resulted in Lake Oroville rising to levels so high that nearly 200,000 locals had to be evacuated, as the excessive water destroyed the dam’s spillway.
If you remember that incident, then it’s hard to believe that here we are, just four years later, and the dam barely has any water in it.
During the course of those four years, the height of the water in the dam’s reservoir is said to have dropped by a remarkable 250 feet.
Currently, Lake Orville is only about 24% full, which is a new record low. The previous record was set back in the 1970s, CNBC notes.
Indeed, the water level at Lake Orville is currently so low that the dam had to be shut down for the first time since it was built in 1967.
Just how bad is it?
Officials had no say in the matter. The water level reportedly dropped so low that there is literally no water to spin the turbines, from which electricity is generated. That’s because the water is not high enough to flow into the dam’s intake pipes.
At first glance, the fact that the dam is shut down may not seem like that big of an issue. The Oroville Dam, after all, only really accounts for about 1% of California’s peak statewide electricity demand.
The bigger problem is that water levels are down across the area as a result of the drought. And in California, hydroelectricity is the state’s second-largest source of power, accounting for roughly 15% of the state’s electricity each year, according to CNBC.
For the time being, it appears that this problem can be compensated for by increasing the production from natural gas power plants, among other measures.
But California officials notably want to move away from natural gas and toward renewable energy. If the Golden State had already completed this move, and if at the same time it was experiencing this reduction in hydroelectricity, then the people of California would be in some serious trouble.