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Rare Warm & Dry 2013 Not Good for State’s Water Supply

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February snow survey

Surveyors check the snowpack’s readings near Echo Summit in February.
Courtesy: Department of Water Resources


The drier, warmer weather may delight weekend warriors and those on an outdoor stroll, but at what cost to the state’s snowpack?

Surveyors reported Thursday that while the snowpack hasn’t actually lost much water content since January’s measurement, it hasn’t increased, and is now just 66% of average for this time of year.

Back in January, after the wet storms of November and December, the snowpack was at 134% of average. Now, those readings indicate California’s “frozen reserve” is low. The snowpack normally provides about a third of water for the state’s homes, businesses and farms.

If January and February have seemed abnormally dry, they were. The Department of Water Resources says the mountain area from Shasta Lake to the American River near Sacramento has only measured about two inches of rain this year. The next-driest January-February period was in 1991, when they had four inches of rain.

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Snow blankets I-80 during a February snowstorm, a rare sight this year.

“Near-record dry weather combined with pumping restrictions to protect Delta smelt are making this a gloomy water supply year,” said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin in a press release.

Despite the low snowpack, storage reservoirs are above normal levels. Lake Oroville is at 113% of average for this date, Shasta Lake is 107% of normal storage level.

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