Times-Herald (Vallejo)

California may face a critical dry year ahead

- By John Antczak

LOS ANGELES >> California will likely face a critically dry year with much less runoff from the Sierra Nevada snowpack than normal and reservoirs that already are showing the impact of winter precipitat­ion that is well below average, state water authoritie­s said Tuesday.

The state Department of Water Resources’ latest survey from a network of electronic stations found that the water content of the overall snowpack was 61% of the historical March 2 average and 54 percent of the average on April 1, when it is historical­ly at its maximum.

Surveys of the Sierra snowpack, which normally supplies about 30% of California’s water, are a key element of the department’s water supply forecast. December, January and February are typically the wettest part of the so-called “water year,” which starts on Oct. 1 each year.

“As California closes out the fifth consecutiv­e dry month of our water year, absent a series of strong storms in March or April we are going to end with a critically dry year on the heels of last year’s dry conditions,” Karla Nemeth, the department’s director, said in a statement.

She added: “With backto-back dry years, water efficiency and drought preparedne­ss are more important than ever for communitie­s, agricultur­e and the environmen­t.”=

The snowpack was doing better in the northern and central Sierra than in the southern end of the range, said Sean de Guzman, the department’s chief of snow surveys and water supply forecastin­g.

De Guzman manually surveyed an area at Phillips Station, south of Lake Tahoe, where measuremen­ts date to 1941. He found a snow depth of 56 inches and a “snow water content” of 21 inches, translatin­g to a water content 86% of average to date and 83% of the April 1 average.

De Guzman said the impact of a second consecutiv­e dry year were starting to be seen at the state’s largest reservoirs, which are currently storing between 38% and 68% of their capacity.

Lake Shasta, the state’s largest surface water reservoir, was at 50% of capacity, he said.

“This year has been similar to water year 2014, which was the third year of California’s most recent severe drought, which lasted from 2012 to 2016,” de Guzman said in a webcast from the Sierra site.

De Guzman noted that during that drought, 2014 and 2015 were California’s warmest two years on record and that the calendar year of 2020 was the third warmest on record.

“Although we can’t predict how much precipitat­ion California will receive for the remainder of the year, without any series of storms on the horizon it’s safe to say that we’ll end this year dry so it’s important that we’ll have to plan accordingl­y,” he said.

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 ?? RANDALL BENTON — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Assisted by Ramesh Gautam, left, and Anthony Burdock right, Sean de Guzman, chief of snow surveys for the California Department of Water Resources, checks the depth of the snowpack during the second snow survey of the season at Phillips Station near Echo Summit on Tuesday.
RANDALL BENTON — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Assisted by Ramesh Gautam, left, and Anthony Burdock right, Sean de Guzman, chief of snow surveys for the California Department of Water Resources, checks the depth of the snowpack during the second snow survey of the season at Phillips Station near Echo Summit on Tuesday.

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