Better management of Prado Dam could potentially supply water for an additional 60,000 people per year in Orange County.
A study by the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes showed that using Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) at Prado Dam could increase groundwater recharge by 7,000 acre-feet per year.
FIRO uses data from watershed monitoring and modern hydrologic forecasting to help water managers selectively retain or release water from reservoirs.
In the study, meteorologists used models to simulate reservoir operations under FIRO conditions. The assessment found that temporarily storing water to higher elevations can enhance groundwater recharge.
“Atmospheric river storms cause 25 to 50 percent of annual precipitation in key parts of the west,” said research meteorologist Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes. “When atmospheric rivers make landfall, they can release a staggering amount of rain and snow; however, their absence can lead to drought.”
The study was financed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Orange County Water District, and the California Department of Water Resources.
Prado Dam was built in 1941 by the US Army Corps of Engineers for flood risk management, with a secondary benefit of stormwater capture for water supply.