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Dry winter leads to precautions in California

Posted: January 3, 2014 4:32 p.m.
Updated: January 3, 2014 4:32 p.m.

Frank Gehrke, chief of snow surveys for the Calif. Dept. of Water Resources, left measures snow levels on Friday. The snoowpack at just 20 percent of average for this time of year.

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The first Sierra snow survey of the winter on Friday confirmed the fears of state water managers, who are warning of drought conditions in the coming year unless the state receives significantly more rain and snow.

Surveyors found mostly bare ground when they tried to measure the snowpack near South Lake Tahoe. Manual and electronic readings showed the water content in the statewide snowpack at just 20 percent of average for this time of year. This year's reading and the one in January 2012 are the lowest on record.

"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," Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin said in a statement.

The winter snowpack in the northern and central Sierra provides about a third of the state's water supply.

At this rate, the state estimates it will be able to deliver just 5 percent of the water requested by 29 public agencies this year. Those agencies supply more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland.

The calendar year that just ended was one of the driest on record in California, leaving reservoirs at historic lows and leading some cities to implement water restrictions.

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