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Dry start to winter leaves Sierra without snow with water content at 19% of normal

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POSTED January 3, 2012 5:36 p.m.

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A dry start to winter made it tough for state water engineers to find snow Tuesday during their first survey of the season.
The Department of Water Resources reported the snowpack water content throughout the Sierra at 19 percent of the average for early January. That measurement is only 7 percent of the seasonal average in April, when the snowpack is typically at its peak.
Water managers were not panicking yet.
"Fortunately, we have most of winter ahead of us, and our reservoir storage is good," department Director Mark Cowin said in a statement.
State water officials estimate they will deliver 60 percent of the amount requested by contractors this year, largely due to high reservoir levels after last year's heavy rain and snow.
Agencies that supply water to more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of farmland requested slightly more than 4 million acre-feet of water this year.
Lake Oroville, the State Water Project's main reservoir in Butte County, is 72 percent full. Lake Shasta, the federal Central Valley Project's largest reservoir north of Redding, is 68 percent full. That is higher than normal for both reservoirs for this time of year.
In addition to electronic readings, the state conducts manual snow surveys the first of each month between January and May.
For this month, water content is 21 percent of normal in the northern Sierra, 13 percent of normal in the central Sierra and 26 percent of normal for the southern Sierra.
Mountain snowfall provides about one-third of the annual water supply for California households, farms and industries, according to the department.

 

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