We will soon get another glimpse of the state’s water situation, as the Department of Water Resources is scheduled to conduct the season’s first snow survey today. Sabrina Hill has more.
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This survey’s results likely will be far different than last winter’s initial readings which showed water content in the snowpack at 134 percent of normal for the date, just as California was turning dry after wet storms in November and December. Today’s scant snowpack dramatically illustrates the result of the near-record dry weather we have had since last January. Statewide electronic readings indicate that today’s snowpack water content is only 20 percent of normal for the date.
In normal water years, the snowpack provides about a third of the water used throughout the state, as it slowly melts into streams and reservoirs in spring and early summer.
Although anticipating dismal water content readings this week, DWR weather watchers note that
it’s early in the season and this winter could still turn out average or wet.
The concern, however, is that irrigation-dependent San Joaquin Valley farms and some other areas will suffer if we go into a third consecutive dry year without the cushion of reservoir storage that we had this
calendar year (2013) due to the storms in late 2012 before California began sliding toward drought.
A third dry year would also bring continued higher wild fire risks, especially in fire-heavy areas like Southern California.
The Department of Water Resources and other agencies do have a plan in place to help get water where it’s needed. That is by streamlining transfers of water from areas of relative abundance to
areas of critical need, as well as monitoring water supply impacts in small rural communities where the
groundwater sources are stressed by prolonged dry conditions.
Back in November, it was estimated that farmers would get only five percent of the water they need from the State Water Project. In 2013, the allocation was 35 percent. The last time farmers got a 100 percent allocation was in 2006. It’s hard to get even in wet years, because of Delta pumping restrictions designed to protect the threatened fish the Delta smelt.
We will have information on the snowpack levels later today here on our website.