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Conservation still important as drought ends

March 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
California's three-year drought is officially over, thanks in large part to the storms that pounded the state recently. But officials say conservation will remain part of the water discussion for some time.

Following heavy snow and rainfall, the Department of Water Resources measured the Sierra snowpack at 165 percent of normal, up from 109 percent last year. As a result, Gov. Jerry Brown declared an end to California's drought on Wednesday.

However, the governor urges the public to continue to conserve.

"While this season's storms have lifted us out of the drought, it's critical that Californians continue to watch their water use," Brown said. "Drought or not drought, demand for water in California always outstrips supply. Continued conservation is key."

More than 61 feet of snow has fallen in the Sierra Nevada high country so far this season, second only to 1950-51, when 65 feet fell, according to records kept by the California Department of Transportation. And more snow is possible in April, raising the prospect of an all-time record.

Squaw Valley saw 59 feet of snow this season, which is an all-time record for the area. Also, for the first time since 1983, water is gushing from the Nacimiento Dam near Paso Robles.

The drought, which was issued in 2008 by then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was considered the fifth worst in state history. Schwarzenegger called for a state of emergency in February 2009 after three years of low water levels.

Currently, Los Angeles residents living in homes with odd-numbered addresses can water their lawns for 8 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If you have an even-numbered address, watering is allowed on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. With the end of California's drought, this could all change.

The city of Long Beach already foresees lighter restrictions.

"Perhaps we'll go to just advisory instead of it being mandatory, something like that," said Kevin Wattier, general manager of the Long Beach Water Department.

The Department of Water and Power won't comment yet on whether the end of the drought will mean a cheaper water bill for customers. The DWP will send teams to the eastern Sierra, the source of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and release their findings next week.

"I don't think the water bill is going to look better, I just think we'll be in a better situation when it comes to water," said Temple City resident Damien Batin.

The Metropolitan Water District said although we solved our short-term problems, there are still long-term water concerns. The state is maintaining its pledge to cut 20 percent of our water use by 2020.

Los Angeles city officials have not decided to rescind restrictions on lawn-watering. Officials are sending a clear message to residents: Keep up your water conservation.