Bay Area Looks To Expand Reservoir As Drought Deepens

The expansion of the Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Brentwood would increase storage capacity and create a more reliable water supply for Northern California communities.

November 24, 2021, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Paul Rogers reports on a $1-billion proposal to expand the Los Vaqueros Reservoir, a key water source for California's Bay Area.

The Contra Costa Water District plans to expand the reservoir's capacity to 275,000 acre-feet, up from its current capacity of 160,000 acre-feet, by raising its dam by 56 feet. The project would be funded by local water agencies, $470 million from a 2014 water bond, and $223 million in federal funds. According to officials, the expansion will improve the reliability of California's dwindling water supply.

But as Rogers notes, "There are still challenges ahead. To raise the dam, the reservoir will have to be drained in 2027 for three years. The district says it will provide water during that time to Contra Costa County residents directly from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and from transfers and exchanges with other districts."

The Los Vaqueros project is unique in that it does not face any opposition from environmental groups, who have worked with Contra Costa officials to implement measures that mitigate damage to the surrounding ecosystem, including fish screens and public trails. The proposal has gained momentum as California faces its most severe drought yet, with water levels in reservoirs across the Southwest at historic lows. Last month, Governor Newsom declared a statewide drought emergency, urging local water authorities to implement conservation measures. 

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