Recent storms helped fill state reservoirs

Despite frequent power outages and mudslides from the heavy December and January storms, parched water reserves in Yosemite National Park have been quenched, though stocks remain lower than average and weather forecasters have warned of dry months ahead.

“The recent rain and snows have been very good for the system,” Public Utilities Commission acting manager Tony Irons told commissioners during their meeting last week.

Water is piped from Yosemite to 2.4 million people in San Francisco, San Mateo and other counties by the SFPUC, according to the commission’s figures.

Winter precipitation is stored as water in the Hetch Hetchy dam and in other Yosemite dams operated by the SFPUC, and it’s also stored as snowpack that melts and flows into rivers and dams when warmer days return.

Seventeen gallons out of every 20 gallons of water provided by the SFPUC flows from Hetch Hetchy, according to SFPUC figures.

Last week’s stormy weather pushed year-to-date precipitation at Hetch Hetchy above average levels, according to an SFPUC report.

“We’ve got some 50 to 60 inches of snow,” SFPUC hydrologist Bruce McGurk told The Examiner last week. “It’s a great reservoir.”

But McGurk warned that water reserves remain lower than normal, which is “not unusual,” he said, “for a year that follows a year as dry as 2007.”

Commission spokesman Tony Winnicker told The Examiner that people should remain “water wise,” despite the recent drenching and snowfalls.

“These rains and snows are great — but we still must see what February though April bring,” Winnicker said. “We could still end up behind.”

jupton@examiner.com

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