Speed Reads

the river runs down

California is diverting melting snow to avoid flooding

California faced a record level of rain and snowfall this past winter thanks to multiple atmospheric rivers that, per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, transport water vapor later released in the form of rain or snow through the sky. But once the resulting snowpack began to melt, reservoirs in the region began to fill up and agricultural fields started to flood, reported ABC News. "We really haven't been able to plan for something quite like this," David Feldman, director of the research center Water UCI, told the outlet. The area has been in a drought for decades.

Now, California is looking for ways to divert all that excess water, with hopes of moving H2O from full reservoirs to more empty ones downstream. That said, the state's river system is not exactly conducive to this, Greg Reis, a hydrologist at The Bay Institute, told ABC News. "We've constrained the rivers so much that a levee break could be devastating in some cases," he said. "So if we set those levees back with more room, we can actually evacuate more water out of our dams, reservoirs, right now and get them lower so they can absorb this pulse of slow melt that's coming."

Experts are particularly worried about flood waters reaching Tulare Lake, which reemerged after being dried up for 80 years. To divert water from the lake, which will threaten acres of surrounding farmland, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order allowing the state to open a "rarely used" relief valve that will direct water to the California Aqueduct, a "complex system of tunnels and pipelines that transports water from Northern California and the Sierra to the state's arid central and southern expanses," explained the Los Angeles Times

Despite the complications, the stormwater and snowpack should prove valuable water resources for the state in the future, experts say. "We're going to have to kind of retool our infrastructure to be prepared to harvest and store that water and to consider it to be a central part of our water supply planning," explained Feldman. "We'd like to harvest as much of it as possible."