What is in this article?:
- California snowpack at alarming low level
- Dwindling snowpack
- California's low snowpack water content is particularly significant because this is the time of year the snowpack normally is at its peak before slowly melting with warming weather.
DWR and cooperating agencies conduct manual snow surveys around the first of the month from January through May. The manual measurements supplement and check the accuracy of the real-time electronic readings from sensors up and down the state.
Despite the dwindling snowpack, most key storage reservoirs are above or near historic levels for the date thanks to November and December storms.
Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s principal storage reservoir, is at 108 percent of its average level for the date (83 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity). Shasta Lake north of Redding, the federal Central Valley Project’s largest reservoir with a capacity of 4.5 million acre-feet, is at 102 percent of its normal storage level for the date (82 percent of capacity).
(An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, enough to cover one acre to a depth of one foot.)
Reservoir storage will meet much of the state’s water demand this year, but successive dry years would create drought conditions in some areas.
Today’s conditions, including the State Water Project allocation, could change with April storms.
The final SWP allocation for calendar year 2012 was 65 percent of requested deliveries. The initial delivery estimate for calendar year 2011 was only 25 percent of requested SWP water. However, as winter took hold, a near record snowpack and heavy rains resulted in deliveries of 80 percent of requests in 2011. The final allocation was 50 percent in 2010, 40 percent in 2009, 35 percent in 2008, and 60 percent in 2007. The last 100 percent allocation -- difficult to achieve even in wet years because of pumping restrictions to protect Delta fish -- was in 2006.
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