Water Year 2021 Drought Information

California’s Central Valley experienced one of the driest years on record during water year 2021. Combined with 2020, the two-year period is the second lowest on record behind 1976-1977. Here’s how Reclamation responded:
Reclamation implemented an “all hands on deck” approach to balance a variety of needs, legal requirements, and objectives with limited resources including:

  • Conserved cold water pool for fisheries when most needed
  • Implemented operational flexibilities for fisheries, such as pulse flows and temperature management
  • Managed stored water supplies for health and safety needs for California communities
  • Facilitated voluntary actions by senior water right holders to preserve cold water
  • Shored up our refugial and supplementation hatcheries
  • Continued to fund habitat restoration projects and facility improvements to increase environmental resiliency
  • Facilitated transfers from willing sellers needed for farms, refuges, and communities
  • Closely coordinated drought operation decisions with federal and state agency partners

Although water year 2021 started with higher storage levels than previous critical years in recent history, hydrologic conditions were unprecedented. For example, between the April and May 1 Sac Four River Index 90% forecast, there was a 685,000 acre-feet reduction in projected inflow. Snowpack that normally drains into streams and reservoirs infiltrated into parched soils and evaporated into dry atmosphere. As a result, inflow to Shasta Reservoir was the lowest on record.

Water Year 2021 Timeline

Last Updated: 10/3/23