California Snow Not Enough To Overcome Drought
LOS ANGELES - California's mountain snowpack is only at 80 percent of normal, despite recent snowstorms, and is far from enough to ease a prolonged drought, making water conservation measures a necessity, state officials said on Monday.
The drought is forcing municipal water rationing and sharp cutbacks in irrigation supplies to farmers.
"Although recent storms have added to the snowpack, California remains in a serious drought," said Lester Snow, director of the state's Department of Water Resources,
"This year's precipitation levels are still below average. On the heels of two critically dry years it is unlikely we will make up the deficit and be able to refill our reservoirs before winter's end. It's very important that Californians continue to save water at home and in their businesses," Snow said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last Friday declared a statewide drought emergency, urging California cities to impose mandatory conservation measures to cut urban consumption by 20 percent.
Schwarzenegger said he fears the state may face punishing droughts for several more years.
California's farms, which have been especially hard hit by the dry spell, produce more than half the fruit, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States.
Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range was measured on Monday at 84 percent of normal in the northern part of the range, 77 percent in the central portion, and 83 percent in the southern stretch of the mountains.
State hydrologists predict that the water season would have to end at 120 to 130 percent of normal in order to adequately replenish dwindling reservoirs. The chance of above-normal precipitation becomes less likely as the water season advances.
Most the state's rain and snow usually falls in the winter.
Last year at this time, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada was measured at 114 percent of normal, but spring 2008 turned out to be the driest on record.
Storage in the state's major reservoirs also is low. Lake Oroville, the principal reservoir operated by the state, on Monday was at 39 percent of capacity, and only 55 percent of the average level for this time of year, the CDWR reported.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; editing by Leslie Adler)