As Reservoirs Shrink, Western Hydropower in Doubt

August 8, 2021


SANTA MONICA, Calif. — California shut down a major hydroelectric power plant at Lake Oroville as water levels fell near the minimum necessary to generate power, state water officials said.

It’s the first time the state has shut down the Hyatt Power Plant due to depleted water levels since the plant went into operation in 1967.

The loss of power could fuel even more rolling blackouts this summer as the state grapples with a historic drought and record-breaking heat waves.

Officials said the record-low water levels at Lake Oroville, a man-made water reserve in Northern California, are a result of the drought exacerbated by climate change.

Though California consistently experiences drought, climate change fueled high temperatures and dry soil that significantly reduced water runoff into the reservoirs this spring, resulting in the lowest levels ever recorded at Lake Oroville, officials said Thursday.

“This is just one of many unprecedented impacts we are experiencing in California as a result of our climate-induced drought,” Karla Nemeth, director of the state’s water resources department, said in a statement.

Nemeth said the department anticipated the shutdown and planned for a loss of water and grid management. Officials have warned that the plant can no longer generate power if water levels fall below 640 feet above sea level.

8 Responses to “As Reservoirs Shrink, Western Hydropower in Doubt”

  1. Keith McClary Says:

    24% of Total Capacity
    34% of Historical Avg. For This Date

  2. jimbills Says:

    Business Insider: Tribune: Texas leaders raked in millions after electric grid collapse.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Sammy Roth speaks of “challenges and opportunities”, which should be called “looming catastrophes” and “wishful thinking”

    The problem is that CA now has ~40 million people living in a landscape that only supported at most 1 or 2 million pre-contact. Sammy and others like him cannot talk their way past that fact.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      I can’t believe people are still moving to Austin, which is only going to get hotter and dryer as the years pass.

      Of course, Austin is one of the better-managed cities in the country.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “Better managed”? LOL Please explain that term to me—-is it the opposite of “poorly managed” and what separates the two? IMO the “better managed” may avoid catastrophe for a at most a few years more than the “poorly managed. Big whoop!

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          They enforce flood mitigation, aquifer protection, and water conservation. They sent out pre-holiday public health warnings about COVID. Their utilities proactively contacted people after the Big Freeze to discuss not billing for “water use” due to burst pipes and what happens if there’s a “hidden” burst pipe. They’re converting streets to be friendlier and safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Any program that might be burdensome gets aid for poor households. They’re buying old hotels for interim housing of the homeless. They’ve replaced old pools with splash pads and added more splash pads for smaller neighborhood parks. They’re working on methods that would increase housing in old neighborshoods (working upstream against NIMBYs). They’ve improved public transport (on-line live schedules and modern shaded bus shelters). We’ve long had curbside recycling and recently added compost pickup. They’ve pulled “internal affairs” and forensics out of the police department org chart and are fixing the problems they found from a review of police training.

          Climate-wise, the problem is increased heat, drought and the potential for rain-bomb-induced creek flooding in some of the lower neighborhoods, but we don’t get direct hits from hurricanes or suffer from forest fires (no forests), though scrub fires can happen in the hilly outer suburbs. Even the deep freezes like we had in February should get less freezier as the decades pass, and apparently US tornado activity is shifting further east.

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