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Sierra snowpack at historic low

March 4, 2015

That storm that dumped four or five inches of snow in the Sierras over the weekend was nice, but did next to nothing to move the drought needle.

 

Snow levels state wide are at historic lows, just 19 percent of normal, says the California Department of  Water Resources. That's compared to 31 percent of normal last year, and 25 percent in 1977, considered the driest year since 1950 when the state began publishing snowpack records.

 

It's a key measure because snow makes up 60 percent of the water captured in California reservoirs during spring melts and amounts to 30 percent of the state's water supply during normal years.

 

From the Chronicle:

 

California’s biggest reservoirs are holding steady despite the dismal snowpack. Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, has 78 percent of what it normally holds at this time of year. Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir and the most important source for the State Water Project, is carrying 70 percent of what it normally holds at this time of year.

 

Shasta and Oroville carry 80 percent of the state’s reservoir supply. The state water is used to irrigate 8 million acres of farmland and quench the thirst of at least 25 million people.

 

The problem, [department of water resources surveyor David] Rizzardo said, is south of there, where the reservoirs serve mostly farming communities. Pine Flat Dam, on the Kings River, is only 30 percent of normal, and Exchequer, or McClure Dam, on the Merced River, stands at only 16 percent of normal.

 

If not for the short but powerful storms in December and February, California would be in very serious trouble, Rizzardo said. As it is, he said, some of the smaller reservoirs are now in danger of going completely dry this summer.

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