By Sam Shane

OROVILLE (CBS13) — In this dry year, year, several Northern California reservoirs have hit historic lows, while two in Southern California are not only in good shape, they’re above 100 percent of normal.

Jana Frazier works with the Department of Water Resources at Lake Oroville, the largest reservoir in the state water project.

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“Right now it’s kind of sad. I mean the images that you can see are kind of stark,” she said. “People call me all the time complaining about sending water to Southern California.


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Lake Oroville is at the head of the project where water from the Feather River is stored, and then moved through the Delta and into central and southern California.

Lake Shasta is at the head of the state’s other large water system, the Central Valley Project. That one is run by the feds. It collects water from the Cascades and the Sierras and drains into the Delta, supplying water to farmers in the valley and cities in the Bay Area.

The two combine to provide water to irrigate more than 3.5 million acres and drinking water to more than 25 million Californians.

But that’s in an average year.

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In this drought year, California’s complex system of water rights and environmental protections gets even more complicated.

The state has already sent letters warning if it gets as bad as some are predicting, people may have their water rights completely shut off.

And if water levels get desperately low, it could come down to that age old debate.

There will be a balance between human and animal interests that will need to be struck as water levels dwindle.

Southern California water agencies aren’t in as dire of a position, because they have invested heavily in reliability.

Moving water from a stocked Southern California to a parched Northern California isn’t easy, because the state’s infrastructure isn’t designed to flow the other way.

Frazier puts it more bluntly.

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“Not unless we had a way that somebody could fly over with a big old spaceship, and empty all that water that they sucked up from Southern California,” she said.