As an intense atmospheric river dumped record rainfall across Southern California this week, water agencies swiftly sprung into action to collect the rare downpour while a major sewage plant barely avoided catastrophe.
The welcome yet extreme deluge pushed infrastructure to its breaking point, testing facilities struggling to balance supply needs with environmental protections.
How Much Rain Did California Get?
The powerful storm delivered over 5 inches of rain in some areas in just a couple of days – meeting almost an entire year’s worth of precipitation in one shot from the heavens above. Water managers rejoiced at the sight of overflowing reservoirs and surging rivers, even as communities braced for floods. Every drop was desperately needed in the drought-ravaged Golden State.
Dozens of reservoirs and spreading basins around the region were positioned to intercept as much runoff as possible before it simply flowed out to sea forever. In Los Angeles County alone, enough stormwater was salvaged to meet the demands of over 65,000 residents for twelve whole months.
“We successfully captured around 2.7 billion gallons as the rain poured in sheets for hours on end,” explained Liz Vazquez, public information officer for Los Angeles County Public Works. “Our reservoirs and percolation basins performed exactly as designed by collecting a substantial supply that will go a long way towards offsetting future shortages.”
Meanwhile, farther north, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California estimated facilities under its jurisdiction had secured over 15,000 acre-feet of liquid gold after Sunday night – equal to an astonishing 4.9 billion additional gallons suddenly available to recharge depleted groundwater stores.
Similar windfalls were accomplished by partners up and down state as near-empty water banks welcomed their first deposits in ages.