An April 1 search for California snowpack yielded another disappointing measurement.
California Department of Water Resources (DWR) snow surveyors found the Sierra snowpack, boosted by late-season storms, still far below normal as the spring melt fast approaches.
Coupled with this winter’s rare rainfall, the meager snowpack with only 32 percent of average water content for the date promises a gloomy summer for California farms and many communities.
DWR Director Mark Cowin said, “We’re already seeing farmland fallowed and cities scrambling for water supplies. We can hope that conditions improve, but time is running out and conservation is the only tool we have against nature’s whim.”
After a bone dry December and January, storms in February and March brought some promise to Californians, but failed to break the drought’s impact on reservoirs.
Electronic readings indicate that snowpack water content in the state’s northern mountains is 23 percent of normal. The electronic readings for the central and southern Sierra are 38 and 31 percent of normal, respectively.
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Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s (SWP) principal reservoir, is at 49 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity (64 percent of its historical average for the date).
Shasta Lake north of Redding, California’s and the federal Central Valley Project’s (CVP) largest reservoir, is at 48 percent of its 4.5 million acre-foot capacity (60 percent of its historical average).
San Luis Reservoir, a critical south-of-Delta reservoir for both the SWP and CVP, is a mere 42 percent of its two million acre-foot capacity (46 percent of average for this time of year) due to dry weather and Delta pumping restrictions to protect salmon and Delta smelt.
This year’s final manual survey is scheduled May 1.