Survey Says: Drought Still On

It’s still “cause for concern.” That’s how California’s water chief summed up the water outlook for this summer, based on the latest survey. The Sierra snowpack stands at 81% of normal for this date, according to today’s measurements by the state Department of Water Resources.

Chopping up the Sierra Nevada into segments, Northern California fared a little better at 87%. The situation deteriorates as you move southward, with Southern Sierra stations clocking in at 77% of normal.

In most years, the April survey marks the peak of the season’s snow water content.

Ultimately what matters is runoff, or the total amount of water that actually comes off the mountains with the spring melt. And snowpack isn’t necessarily a good predictor of that, as we heard in David Gorn’s story on The California Report and in his blog notes from today.

Just yesterday the Governor’s Climate Action Team released its 2009 assessment of likely climate change effects in California. OneĀ  predicted outcome is that ripple effects from water shortages could run up a tab of $3 billion per year. And that’s the rosy scenario, based on being able to quickly move 5 million acre-feet of water to where it’s needed. Eileen Tutt of Cal-EPA cautions that the actual capacity of the current system to quickly redistribute water is closer to 1 million acre-feet. An acre-foot is about the amount of water that a typical household uses in one year.

Survey Says: Drought Still On 2 April,2009Craig Miller

One thought on “Survey Says: Drought Still On”

  1. I wonder how the Sierra snow pack is doing. We got four inches of rain here at the 3200 foot level. One inch of rain on average produces about 6 inches of snow. So we should have an additional two feet of snow in the mountains. I wonder how that changes the snow pack percentages? It is forecast to rain next week also. I hope we get to 100%. But, will that stop all the talk about drought. I doubt is will, unless all the dams are over flowing. Stay Tuned.

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Craig Miller

Craig is a KQED Science editor, specializing in weather, climate, water & energy issues, with a little seismology thrown in just to shake things up. Prior to his current position, he launched and led the station's award-winning multimedia project, Climate Watch. Craig is also an accomplished writer/producer of television documentaries, with a focus on natural resource issues.

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