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Sierra Snowpack at 20 Percent of Average, Reservoirs Well Below Capacity

Photo Credit: National Park Service
Photo Credit: National Park Service
By Bay City News Service

Snow levels in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and reservoirs statewide are well below normal, according to a survey released Friday, triggering calls for water conservation from state water officials.

Statewide, the water content of snowpack was measured at about 20 percent of average for this time of year, and only 7 percent of the average April 1 measurement, the California Department of Water Resources said Friday.

Readings were 11 percent of average for the date for the northern mountains, 21 percent of average for the central Sierras and 30 percent of average for the southern Sierras. While still early in the season, the results suggest water could be in short supply this summer.

The state has just ended one of the driest years on record and crucial reservoirs that supply irrigation water in areas like the San Joaquin Valley are also low, officials said.

Lake Oroville in Butte County is at only 36 percent of its capacity, or 57 percent of its historic average for this date. Shasta Lake is at 37 percent of capacity, or 57 percent of average for the date. And San Luis Reservoir, which is affected by pumping restrictions on Delta water as well as by dry weather, is at 30 percent of capacity, or 43 percent of average for the date, officials said.

"This is a clear call for all of us to cut back on the amount of water we use watering lawns and landscaping," said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laired. "We have to keep our showers short, and run our washing machines and dishwashers only when we have a full load."

State officials mobilized a Drought Task Force earlier this month to respond to the potential threat. "While we hope conditions improve, we are fully mobilized to streamline water transfers and take every action possible to ease the effects of dry weather on farms, homes and businesses as we face a possible third consecutive dry year," said DWR Director Mark Cowin. "And every Californian can help by making water conservation a daily habit."

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