The water in Lake Oroville — the state’s second largest reservoir — is pumped through underground facilities to generate electricity, which can power up to 800,000 homes when operating at full capacity.
While the water level in the reservoir is currently hovering around 700 feet above sea level, if it continues to fall at the currently projected rate to 640 feet there will not be enough water to continue operating the Hyatt plant in two to three months, coinciding with the typical peak of the summer heat and wildfire season.
“If lake levels fall below those elevations later this summer, DWR will, for the first time, cease generation at the Hyatt power plant due to lack of sufficient water to turn the plant’s electrical generation turbines,” said Liza Whitmore, Public Information Officer of DWR’s Oroville Field Division.
The Hyatt power plant is the fourth largest hydroelectric energy producer statewide, according to the state’s energy commission. Due to the already low water supply at Lake Oroville, the plant’s output has been reduced to 20% of its total capacity and officials have relied on other facilities to avoid major power interruptions to homes and businesses, Whitmore said.
A hydroelectric plant downstream of the Hyatt facility in California will also operate at reduced levels this summer despite increased power demands during the typical summer peak, Whitmore said.
“In previous droughts, lake levels were high enough at Oroville’s reservoir to continue powerplant operations,” she said. “In an effort to preserve as much storage as possible, DWR has requested a Temporary Urgency Change Petition… that will allow DWR to reduce flows through the Delta.”
“Water is a precious and limited resource, especially in drought-prone California where the next dry period could be right around the corner,” the state’s water resources department said. “As a result, water conservation and the efficient use of California’s water supply are major priorities.”