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Heavy rains not helping Calif. drought

January 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
You would think the big winter storms would ease California's water shortage problems, but you'd be wrong. State officials say the water from these storms represents just a drop in the bucket as far as the drought is concerned."Rain is not fixing the problems we have in California today," said Timothy Quinn of the Association of California Water Agencies.

While underground water tables will get a boost from all this rain, reservoirs statewide are still low and trying to recover from last year's drought. The Association of California Water Agencies worries people will stop conserving when in fact, mandatory and voluntary cutbacks are still in effect.

"It would be short-sighted of those local agencies to get rid of those protections that are based on long-term concerns just because of a temporary change of hydrology," said Quinn.

What really counts towards the state's water supply is snowfall in the Sierra Nevada, which sort of acts like a reservoir. When the snow melts in the spring, the water flows down to the Delta to bring drinking and irrigation water to the rest of the thirsty state.

This year's first snow survey measured less than 60 percent of normal for the season.

"The snowpack is very, very important. It's everything to your water supply," said Arthur Hinojosa of the California Department of Water Resources.

Some farmers in the lush Sacramento Valley are well aware of the state's water needs. They're thinking of not planting crops this year to sell their irrigation water on the possibly more lucrative open market.

As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-California, and Democrats disagree over how to solve the state water crisis, some look at this week's rainfall and wish more could be saved and stored.

"It needs to be captured so when we have a drought, that we have enough water available," said Gov. Schwarzenegger. "Right now, we don't have enough water. Right now, we are in a situation where they're raising the prices, where we have problems delivering enough water to the people."

State leaders say work must be done to fix the Delta's old, complex network of pumps, pipes and aqueducts that makes water delivery possible. Currently, use is restricted to save the endangered Delta smelt. Many people ask, what good is it having water up north if it can't flow southward?


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