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First Winter Survey Shows Low Snowpack

Snow water content is the lowest measured.

The snow water content measured at Phillips Station was the lowest on record.

California Chamber of Commerce – January 10, 2014 –

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) first winter snow survey last week found “more bare ground than snow,” adding to concerns about the state’s water supply.

The survey found that for the second straight year, California’s snowpack levels are only 20% of average, the driest on record.

DWR weather watchers note that it’s early in the season and this winter could still turn out wet. The concern, however, is that irrigation-dependent San Joaquin Valley farms and some other areas will be hard hit if California has another dry year without the cushion of reservoir storage that it had in calendar year 2013 due to the storms in late 2012 before California began sliding toward drought.

In addition to the sparse snowpack, many areas of the state ended 2013 with the lowest rainfall amounts on record. Sacramento normally gets about 18 inches of annual rainfall, but ended the year with 5.74 inches of precipitation. Downtown Los Angeles, which averages 14.74 inches of rain, ended with 3.4 inches, beating the previous low of 4.08 inches recorded in 1953.
Water Deliveries

Reservoirs are low, and there is little snowpack.

Lake Oroville is currently at 36% of capacity. Snowpack is 20% of average. DWR currently estimates it will be able to deliver only 5 percent of requested water in 2014.

DWR currently estimates it will be able to deliver only 5% of the slightly more than 4 million acre-feet of State Water Project (SWP) water requested for the 2014 calendar year by the 29 public agencies that collectively supply more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland.

The final SWP allocation for 2013 was 35% of the more than 4 million acre-feet requested. In 2012, the final allocation was 65%, and in 2011 it was 80%.

DWR and other agencies will streamline transfers of water from areas of relative abundance to areas of critical need, monitor water supply impacts in small rural communities whose groundwater sources are stressed by prolonged dry conditions, and take other steps to mitigate the effects of dry weather.

“While we hope conditions improve, we are fully mobilized to streamline water transfers and take every action possible to ease the effects of dry weather on farms, homes and businesses as we face a possible third consecutive dry year,” DWR Director Mark Cowin said.
Snow Survey

DWR and cooperating agencies conduct manual snow surveys around the first of the month from January to May. The manual measurements supplement and check the accuracy of real-time electronic readings.

The January snowpack survey can be found on the DWR website at www.water.ca.gov.

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