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For immediate release: May 1, 2002
Media Contact: Rob Schlichting - 916-654-4989

Energy Commission Forecasts
Near-Normal Output from Hydro Plants

Sacramento - This summer's power output from the State's hydroelectric plants should approach 85 percent of normal, according to a just-released report by the California Energy Commission.

The Commission's California Hydro-Electricity Outlook for 2002 report predicts that nearly 13 percent of California's total electricity needs this summer can be met with power from its in-State dams and powerhouses. Last year, when electricity supplies were much tighter, hydro projects produced less than 10 percent of the State's electricity.

The report acknowledges that this water year, which officially began on October 1, 2001, has been very dry in the southern part of the State. Southern California has received just 30 percent of it's average rainfall. In the northern part of the State, however, where most of the hydroelectric generation occurs, precipitation has amounted to 100 percent of normal.

Rainfall is unequally distributed in California; while three-quarters of the State's water use takes place south of Sacramento, roughly three-quarters of California's precipitation falls north of the capital city. The vast majority of in-State hydroelectric generation depends on runoff in 13 rivers that flow into the Sacramento River, the San Joaquin River, and the Tulare Lake basin. Runoff totals in those watersheds are presently estimated to be 84 percent of normal.

Looking north beyond State boundaries, the report finds good news in the Pacific Northwest. After suffering drought emergencies last year, Washington has had near record precipitation amounts this season. As a result, more hydroelectric power should be available to California this summer from Washington and Oregon, further brightening the State's power picture.

The report, prepared each spring by the Energy Commission, is based on hydrologic data and forecasts from the Department of Water Resources and confidential forecasts provided by some of the California utilities. April 1 is used as the yearly benchmark date, since on average 82 percent of the State's precipitation arrives by that date.

The California Hydro-Electricity Outlook for 2002 is Publication Number 700-02-004F. It can be downloaded from the Energy Commission's website at


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