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With water officials bracing for a possible third consecutive dry year in California, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) will conduct the season’s first snow survey on January 3.
This survey’s results likely will be far different than last winter’s initial readings which showed water content in the snowpack at 150 percent of normal for the date, just as California was turning dry after wet storms in November and December. Today’s scant snowpack dramatically illustrates the result of the near-record dry weather we have had since last January. Statewide electronic readings indicate that today’s snowpack water content is only 20 percent of normal for the date.
The snowpack normally provides about a third of the water we use in California as it slowly melts into streams and reservoirs in spring and early summer.
Although anticipating dismal water content readings this week, DWR weather watchers note that it’s early in the season and this winter could still turn out average or wet. The concern, however, is that irrigation-dependent San Joaquin Valley farms and some other areas will suffer if we go into a third consecutive dry year without the cushion of reservoir storage that we had this calendar year (2013) due to the storms in late 2012 before California began sliding toward drought. A third dry year would also bring continued higher wildfire risks.