Strong storms and cold temperatures last winte rleft a behind a deep snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which provides water for about 23 million Californians from the Bay Area to Southern California. And, this season turned out to be one for the record books.
As of April 13, just under 90 inches of rain and snow were reported at eight stations in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The previous record of 88.5 inches was set in the winter of 1982-1983. By May, the snowpack was nearly double normal levels.
So how does all that water actually travel hundreds of miles through the Bay Area and Central Valley to Southern California?
If temperatures are cold enough, the Sierra Nevada Mountains act as a giant natural reservoir that stores snow until it melts in spring and runs down the mountains in rivers and streams. That water is collected in the State Water Project, a storage and delivery system of reservoirs, aqueducts and power plants. Its backbone is the 444-mile long California Aqueduct -- canals, tunnels and pipelines that direct water from the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and valleys of Northern and Central California to Southern California. The water is used by residents in Los Angeles and other large cities, but also for irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley and other agricultural regions along the way.
Drivers along the 5 Freeway likely have seen segments of the Aqueduct north of Los Angeles, and the images below show more parts of the engineering marvel that provides an aquatic lifeline for California.
Take a look at the snow covering the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where a winter of record snowfall has left behind historic snowpack levels. Video was captured Friday April 14, 2017.