Yuba River dam
Photo: Courtesy of Yuba Water Agency.

The Yuba River snakes through Northern California, draining water that runs off the Sierra Nevada mountains. During droughts, the river’s flow slows dramatically. But in wet years, the river is prone to dangerous floods.

Aikens: “And that’s why storage on the West Coast in terms of reservoirs is so important.”

That’s Curt Aikens of the Yuba Water Agency. In the 1960s, the agency built the New Bullards Bar Dam. It forms a huge reservoir that holds water for agriculture, drinking water, and power. The storage is especially important during dry years.

And during storms, the reservoir helps prevent floods by storing water that can then be released slowly over time.

Now the agency plans to add a second spillway to the reservoir. It will help managers handle heavier rainfall by releasing more water sooner and faster. It’s an improvement that’s especially important as the climate changes.

Aikens: “My sense is we’ve certainly seen a warming of the climate around here and it does tend to bring more rain instead of snow.”

As more water pours into the Yuba River during extreme storms, reservoirs will be more critical than ever.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Daisy Simmons

Daisy Simmons is a freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience in research-driven storytelling. In addition to contributing to Yale Climate Connections since early 2016, she also...