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Water in Calif. snowpack stays above average

March 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
With measurements showing the water content in the Sierra snowpack at 124 percent of normal, the Department of Water Resources says California's drought is over.

But the drought proclamation former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed in 2008 during the state's third dry year is still in effect, and Gov. Jerry Brown has no immediate plans to revoke it.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows no part of California as abnormally dry.

"We don't have a drought in California in 2011," said Gary Bobker of the Bay Institute, an organization that protects and restores the San Francisco Bay and its watershed.

But Bobker said it's time to revisit the issue.

"I don't think you use emergency measures when there isn't an emergency," he said. "The problem with that is it's a little bit of crying wolf and allows you to circumvent rules."

But in California, droughts are not just about weather patterns. They're also about the state's aging water infrastructure.

Some parts of the state have a water shortage because it's difficult to get it to them, no matter how wet it has been.

For that reason, farmers hope the drought declaration is kept in place so that Californians continue to conserve. That way there'll be water when the state figures out how to deliver it to parched areas.

"We still have areas of the state, significant parts of our agricultural economy, that are receiving half of their projected water supplies, so we certainly cannot say that the drought is over," said Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition.

While the state wrestles with whether to lift the drought declaration, some local water agencies are looking at their brimming reservoirs and wondering if water restrictions make sense anymore.

"We're looking at probably lifting restrictions," said Jeff Kightlinger of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. "That's because we've refilled our storage."

The last snow survey of the year is April 1, which will give the Brown administration a better picture of California's water situation until next winter.

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