The California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) final season snow survey indicates snowpack water content is 66 percent of normal for the date statewide. This compares to 72 percent of normal statewide last year.
Manual survey results taken on April 30 at four locations near Lake Tahoe, combined with electronic readings, indicate snowpack water content at 66 percent of normal in the Northern Sierra, 70 percent in the Central Sierra, and 61 percent in the Southern Sierra.
California’s major reservoirs remain low. Lake Oroville, principal storage reservoir for the State Water Project (SWP), registers 58 percent of capacity.
“Today’s snowpack survey further emphasizes the importance of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s statewide drought emergency declaration and our call on all Californians to reduce their water use,” said DWR Director Lester Snow.
“When combined with extremely dry years in 2007 and 2008, low storage in the state’s major reservoirs, restrictions on Delta pumping, a growing population and prediction of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns due to climate change, it is clear the problems facing California will persist beyond this year and this drought,” Snow said.
On Feb. 27, 2009, the governor declared a drought state of emergency, directing DWR and other state agencies to provide assistance to people and communities impacted by the drought.
On March 30, DWR provided the governor an update on drought conditions, recommended strategies, and called for the creation of an online drought bulletin. The monthly bulletin will provide updates about current water conditions, outline statewide reservoir storage levels, precipitation and runoff forecasts, and discuss local impacts and responses to the drought.
The report, transmittal letter, and first bulletin, is available at California Department of Resources.
To assist with ongoing drought conditions, local water agencies are updating Urban Water Management Plans and DWR is facilitating water transfers through its Drought Water Bank program.
Approximately $240 million in bond funding has also been released for water conservation, drought assistance, and Integrated Regional Water Management programs. The money was released by the Pooled Money Investment Board following the successful sale of California infrastructure bonds in March.
Snow water content is important in determining the coming year's water supply and final snow survey results are used to determine final allocation of SWP deliveries.
On April 15, DWR increased the allocation of SWP water to its contractors from 20 percent to 30 percent of requested amounts for calendar year 2009. If the allocation remains at 30 percent, it will match the lowest historical allocation in 1991. The final 2009 allocation will be calculated in May.