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3-Year Drought Retains Grip as Summer Approaches
The California Department of Water resources reports today’s final snow survey of the year found more bare ground than snow
as California faces another long, hot summer after a near-record dry winter
Today’s manual and electronic readings recorded the statewide snowpack’s water content –
which normally provides about a third of the water for California’s farms and cities — at a mere
–18 percent of average for the date.
Just as telling was the April 1 survey that found water content at only 32 percent of average at
the time of year it normally is at its peak before it begins to melt into streams and reservoirs with
“Anyone who doesn’t think conservation is important should drive up the hill and take a look,”
said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “Coupled with half our normal rainfall and low reservoir
storage, our practically nonexistent snowpack reinforces the message that we need to save
every drop we can just to meet basic needs.”
Most dramatically, today’s electronic readings show a dismal 7 percent of average water content
in the northern Sierra snowpack that helps fill the state’s major reservoirs which currently are
only half full.
Electronic water content readings for the central and southern Sierra are 24 and 18 percent of
Snow surveyors from DWR and cooperating agencies manually measure snowpack water
content on or about the first of the month from January through May to supplement and check
the accuracy of real-time electronic readings from remote sensors up and down the mountain
4Results of today’s manual readings by DWR off Highway 50 near Echo Summit are as follows:
Location Elevation Snow Depth Water Content % of Long Term Average
Alpha 7,600 feet inches inches Missing
Phillips Station 6,800 feet 0 inches 0 inches 0
Lyons Creek 6,700 feet inches inches Missing
Tamarack Flat 6,500 feet 8.0 inches 3.4 inches 18
California’s reservoirs obviously will not be significantly replenished by a melting snowpack this
spring and summer.
Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s (SWP) principal reservoir, today is at
only 53 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity (65 percent of its historical average for the
date). Shasta Lake north of Redding, California’s and the federal Central Valley Project’s (CVP)
largest reservoir, also is at 53 percent of its 4.5 million acre-foot capacity (61 percent of its
historical average). San Luis Reservoir, a critical south-of-Delta reservoir for both the SWP and
CVP, is at 47 percent of its 2 million acre-foot capacity (52 percent of average for this time of
With most of the wet season behind us, it is highly unlikely late-season storms will significantly
dampen the effects of the three-year drought on parched farms or communities struggling to
provide drinking water.
On January 31, with no relief from the three-year drought in sight, DWR set its allocation of
State Water Project (SWP) water at zero. The only previous zero allocation was for agriculture
in the drought year of 1991, but cities and others that year received 30 percent of requested
After late season storms, DWR on April 18 increased this year’s allocation to 5 percent of
requested SWP amounts. If it stands, this will be the lowest across-the-board allocation in the
54-year history of the SWP.
Collectively, the 29 public agencies that deliver SWP water to more than 25 million Californians
and nearly a million acres of irrigated agriculture requested 4,172,536 acre-feet of water this
The final SWP allocation for calendar year 2013 was 35 percent of the 4.1 million acre-feet
requested. In 2012, the final allocation was 65 percent of the requested 4.1 million acre-feet. It
was 80 percent in 2011, up dramatically from an initial allocation of 25 percent. The final
allocation was 50 percent in 2010, 40 percent in 2009, 35 percent in 2008, and 60 percent in
2007. The last 100 percent allocation – difficult to achieve even in wet years because of Delta
pumping restrictions to protect threatened and endangered fish – was in 2006.
On April 25, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued an executive order to strengthen the state’s
ability to manage water and habitat effectively in drought conditions and called on all
Californians to redouble their efforts to conserve water. On January 17, the Governor declared
a drought state of emergency.
(Visit Drought.Ca.Gov for an update on how the state is dealing with the drought.)
NOTE: For video footage of today’s snow survey call or email DWR videographer Albert Madrid
at (916) 717-9833, Albert.Madrid@water.ca.gov.
Electronic snowpack readings are available on the Internet at:
Electronic reservoir readings may be found at:
For a broader snapshot of current and historical weather conditions, see DWR’s “Water
Conditions” and “Drought” pages:
Water Conditions Page