DWR: Winter snowpack is 81 percent of normal for the date

The California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) fourth snow survey of the winter season indicates snowpack water content is 81 percent of normal for the date statewide.

“A below-average snowpack at this time of year, especially following two consecutive dry years, is a cause for concern,” said DWR Director Lester Snow. “Our most critical storage reservoirs remain low, and we face severe water supply problems in many parts of our state. Californians must continue to save water at home and in their businesses.”

Manual survey results taken April 2 at four locations near Lake Tahoe, combined with electronic readings, indicate a statewide snowpack water content at 87 percent in the Northern Sierra, 80 percent in the Central Sierra, and 77 percent in the Southern Sierra.

Last year at this time, snowpack was 95 percent of normal statewide, reflecting a drop of over 20 percent from March 2008 caused by the driest spring on record. The snowpack continued to melt early in 2008, resulting in a second consecutive critically dry water year.

Daily electronic readings may be accessed at http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snowsurvey_sno/DLYSWEQ.

On Feb. 27, 2009, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a drought state of emergency directing DWR and other state agencies to provide assistance to people and communities impacted by the drought.

DWR on March 30 provided the governor with an update on drought conditions and recommended strategies. The report and transmittal letter are available for viewing at http://www.water.ca.gov/news/.

Local water agencies are updating Urban Water Management Plans and DWR is facilitating water transfers through its Drought Water Bank program. Many providers have already enacted mandatory or voluntary water rationing and it is likely more agencies will require some form of rationing if dry conditions persist.

Storage in California’s major reservoirs is low. Lake Oroville, the principal storage reservoir for the State Water Project (SWP), is at 56 percent of capacity.

Continuing dry conditions and regulatory agency restrictions on Delta water exports are limiting water deliveries to farms and urban areas.

A forthcoming Biological Opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect salmon and steelhead may further reduce pumping capability.

DWR expects it will deliver about 20 percent of requested State Water Project water this year to the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast, and Southern California.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has outlined steps to safeguard the state’s water supply through a comprehensive plan that includes water conservation, more surface and groundwater storage, new investments in the state’s aging water infrastructure, and improved water conveyance to protect the environment and provide a reliable water supply.

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