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Snowpack survey yields dismal results

State Water Contractors see no uptick in Southern California water allocations

Posted: April 1, 2014 5:27 p.m.
Updated: April 1, 2014 5:27 p.m.

The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains — the water bank for Southern California — measured 32 percent of normal Tuesday at a time of year when it’s supposed to be at its peak.

That low number means water allocated to agencies that contract for State Water Project water, including the Castaic Lake Water Agency, are likely to receive no more than was forecast at the beginning of the year, said officials with the State Water Contractors of California, which includes the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

Right now, the allocation for contractors is zero.

“Even a March miracle would not have lifted California out of this drought,” said Terry Erlewine, general manager of the State Water Contractors. “Water agencies across the state will be faced with finishing out this year, including the upcoming summer, without much-needed State Water Project supplies.”

The Castaic Lake Water Agency provides about 50 percent of the water used in Santa Clarita Valley homes and businesses. Local water officials have called for a 10 percent reduction in the use of water locally; the governor has called for a 20 percent reduction in water use statewide.

“Conservation efforts have been significant,” Erlewine said, “but won’t be enough to protect water agencies and their customers from the impacts of losing such a major portion of their water supplies.”

Even the storms now dousing California are expected to spell little relief this coming summer for farmers and many communities already facing restrictions, said Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources.

California is in its third consecutive dry year, and a drought emergency was called in January by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“We can hope that conditions improve,” Cowin said. “But time is running out, and conservation is the only tool we have against nature’s whim.”

State surveyors traveled up the High Sierra on Tuesday to take their monthly measurements of the snowpack. They went up with low expectations for what they would find despite falling snow and wet weather hitting Northern California.

The California Department of Water Resources measures the snowpack monthly during the wet season. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is important because it stores water that melts in the spring as runoff. Communities and farmers depend on it during California’s hot, dry summers.

The April 1 survey is critical because it marks the peak of the snowpack. There’s just one month remaining of the rainy season.

March precipitation in Northern California was above the monthly average, Department of Water Resources officials said Tuesday. But March was no “miracle,” and the drought continues despite ongoing rain in April, a DWR spokeswoman said.

The Santa Clarita Valley is expected to see a 30 percent chance of overnight showers continuing into the day Wednesday, with highs around 61, according to the National Weather Service. The rest of the week will have partly cloudy skies with highs in the 60s, creeping up to the low 70s by Saturday.




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