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Calif. water supply could reach historic low

March 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
California's water supply is on track to shatter a record low, according to the latest snow survey from the state's Department of Water Resources.

The statewide snowpack water content is just 52 percent of average for what it should be this time of year. That means water supplies are expected to dwindle and more dry months could lead to a drought.

The numbers are quite a disappointment considering the late fall storms held such promise for the winter season.

"It's really been a tale of two winters," Dave Rizzardo of the California Department of Water Resources said. "We started out November and December very wet. From Jan. 1 to now, historically, we're about the driest we've ever been."

In fact when you also compare rainfall for the first three months of the year, California is on track to shatter the record low.

1932 was bad with just a little more of 11 inches of rain. 1988 beat that with just 9 inches. But January 2013 through March is shaping up to be the all-time driest, with 5 and a half inches of rain, with only three days left in the month to go.

Most reservoirs in the northern part of the state are at or above average, thanks to those early storms. They'll fill up some more as the snowpack melts.

"Runoff that's probably around 55 to 75 percent of average," Rizzardo said.

But the Central and Southern Sierra didn't have as many storms, so runoff will be even less.

It'll be tough to deliver more water north to south not only because there's less supply, but also because of the fragile Sacramento/ San Joaquin Delta, which is still under court order that restricts pumping to protect the eco-system.

Consequently, expect California farmers to plant less this season.

"There'll be thousands of acres of land down in the San Joaquin Valley that will not be planted," Dave Kranz of the California Farm Bureau said.

Water planners have been pushing to build more dams.

"Nobody wants to pay the cost of building a dam but they sure want them built and want somebody else to pay the cost," Phil Isenberg of The Delta Stewardship Council said.

Expect a message of conservation in the coming months.


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