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Snow pack looks promising, drought far from over

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POSTED December 31, 2009 2:37 a.m.
California is still behind the drought eight ball.

The first Department of Water Resources snow survey for the 2009-10 season shows the water content is at 85 percent of normal statewide.  Last year at this time water content was at 76 percent of normal.

“Despite some recent storms, today’s snow survey shows that we’re still playing catch-up when it comes to our statewide water supplies,” said DWR Chief Deputy Director Sue Sims. “Looking at the real possibility of a fourth dry year, we must prepare now, conserve now and act now, so that we have enough water for homes, farms and businesses in 2010 and in the future.”

The reason is simple. California is still reeling from three straight years of below normal precipitation that has left Lake Oroville – the State Water project’s largest storage reservoir – at 29 percent of capacity and 47 percent of average storage for this time of year.

The Department of Water Resources is still sticking to its earlier estimate that they will deliver only 5 percent of contracted water to urban and agricultural users throughout the state including the Bay Area.

South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Jeff Shields concurs with the state’s observations that the drought is far from over.

“It is really too early in the season,” Shields said.

Shields noted that New Melones Reservoir – the main storage facility on the Stanislaus River – is so low that it would be tough to fill it up this season.

New Melones Tuesday was at 1.1 million acre feet. Its storage capacity is 1.97 million acre feet.

Shields noted the wet “El Nino” weather pattern – should it fully materialize this winter – won’t be enough to break the impacts of three years of drought.

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