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Drought Picture Shows No Improvement


There's plenty of snow in the Sierra Nevada, but California water officials say it falls short of the amount needed to replenish the state's reservoirs. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce has more on what that may mean for San Diego.

The state department of water resources says the snowpack is holding less water content than normal for this time of year.

State senior meteorologist Elissa Lynn says the smaller snowpack follows two previously dry winters.

"We are in our third dry year," Lynn said. "So to be at 80 percent of normal right now is not good. Not only is this year shy of normal, it'd be our third year in a row. So you run a big cumulative deficit by the time you get to your third year. In fact, over three years we're missing about one year's worth of precipitation."

Department of Water Resources snow chief Frank Gehrke says the snowpack needed to be at least 20 percent above normal by this month to replenish the state's key reservoirs, most of which are well below average.

He says three years of drought also means less spring runoff from the Sierra will flow into reservoirs.

"We have quite an accumulated soil moisture deficit," Gehrke said. "The idea being as the snow melts it soaks into the ground and you know, it's like a dry sponge. Until that sponge is wet you really don't contribute all that much to the runoff."

Low snowpack and drought combined with reduced water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect endangered fish will likely mean rationing throughout California.

The San Diego County Water Authority is preparing for mandatory restrictions by July.

Ken Weinberg is the authority's director of water resources.

"We're looking at being short of water coming into this summer which is our highest use of the season," Weinberg said. "Because this is the situation we're in this year. But because of these restrictions that we're experiencing we're going to be facing the edge of this cliff for the next several years."

The final snow survey is May. But officials don't expect the water picture to improve in the next four weeks.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.


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