Friday, March 1, 2013

February Snow Survey Shows Snowpack At 66% Of Average

On February 28, 2013, the Department of Water Resources ("DWR") issued a news release regarding the third 2013 snow survey.  The results of the snow survey show that snowpack water content is only 66 percent of average for this time of year, and only 57 percent of the average April 1st levels, when snowpack is normally at its peak.  In comparison, the first 2013 survey performed on January 2nd, showed snowpack at 134 percent of normal for that date.  The current low snowpack levels are a result of the "driest January-February on record (since 1920)" for the Northern California region.

The low snow levels are a concern for water suppliers and water users throughout the State, because snowpack--"often called California's 'frozen reservoir'--normally provides about a third of the water for California's farms and communities."  The news release states that "[f]orecasters note there could be a weather turnaround in March, but it is unlikely late-season storms will make up the water supply deficit."

DWR Director Mark Cowin stated that "[n]ear-record dry weather combined with pumping restrictions to protect Delta smelt are making this a gloomy water supply year[.]"  DWR "currently estimates that it will be able to deliver 40 percent of the slightly more than 4 million acre-feet of State Water Project (SWP) water requested for this calendar year by the 29 public agencies that supply more than 25 million people and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland."  The last 100 percent allocation--"difficult to achieve even in wet years because of pumping restrictions to protect Delta fish--was in 2006."

Although snowpack levels are low, "most key storage reservoirs are above or near historic levels for the date thanks to November and December storms."  However, the San Luis Reservoir, "a critical offstream reservoir south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is only at 69 percent of its historic level for the date . . . because of Delta smelt pumping restrictions."

For additional information regarding this post, please contact Elizabeth Leeper or the KMTG attorney with whom you normally consult.

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