Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sierra snowpack water content diminishing

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Department of Water Resources’ Second Snow Survey of the Season

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement after the Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted its second snow survey of the 2008-2009 season, which showed statewide Sierra snowpack water content at only 61 percent of normal:

“California is entering a third straight year of drought, and today’s snow survey is just one more piece of evidence that we urgently need comprehensive water reform to protect our economy, our jobs, our communities and our quality of life. California is headed toward one of the worst water crises in its history, underscoring the need to upgrade our water infrastructure by increasing water storage, improving conveyance, protecting the Delta’s ecosystem and promoting greater water conservation.”

California’s snowpack water content is particularly significant this year because the state has endured two years of drought and our reservoirs are low. Because less-than-normal water supply conditions exist, the initial State Water Project allocation for 2009 was placed at only 15 percent of water contractors’ requested amounts. The results of this survey could impact future allocations. Precipitation to date is at only 70 percent of normal statewide, threatening another dry year, while unseasonably warm and dry conditions are rapidly eroding the snowpack. Furthermore, regardless of snowpack conditions, it is clear water deliveries through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will remain in jeopardy because of recent and pending regulatory uncertainty.

In preparation for another dry year, DWR is facilitating what water transfers may be available through the state’s Drought Water Bank Program and working with local water agencies to update their Urban Water Management Plans. Many providers have already enacted mandatory or voluntary water rationing, and it is likely more agencies will require some form of rationing if dry conditions persist.

Last July, the Governor and Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed a compromise plan to the Legislature to update California’s water system that would put the state on the path toward restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, expanding water supplies and promoting conservation efforts that will ensure a clean, reliable water supply for California.

Last June, the Governor issued an executive order declaring a statewide drought, which directed his state agencies and departments to take immediate action to address the serious drought conditions and water delivery reductions that exist in California. He also proclaimed a state of emergency in nine Central Valley counties to address urgent water needs: Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern.

For more information on DWR’s snow survey, go to

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