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California Water Supply Outlook ‘Gloomy’ After Record Low Snow

The Los Angeles Aqueduct carries water from the snowcapped Sierra Nevada Moun...

Photo by David McNew / Getty Images

Above: The Los Angeles Aqueduct carries water from the snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Special Feature Drought Outlook

California’s snowpack is just 52 percent of normal following the driest January-March on record, California Department of Water Resources (DWR) officials announced Thursday.

“With most of the wet season behind us, this is more gloomy news for our summer water supply,” DWR Director Mark Cowin said in a department news release.

Measurements taken Thursday show 28.5 inches of snow with a water content of just over a foot.

DWR officials said they will have to decrease water delivery allocations from 40 to 35 percent for the 29 public agencies that purchase water. Collectively, the agencies supply a third of the water used in households and on farms across California.

Water managers are also expecting below-normal runoff and decreasing reservoir levels.

The winter began with an unusually wet November and December, with snowpack measuring 134 percent of normal at the end of December.

Another reason for the low water is due to pumping restrictions imposed to protect Delta smelt and salmon.

“This is the kind of conflict we are working to resolve through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” stated Cowin.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan would reduce harm to fish from altered stream flows caused by the south Delta pumps serving the SWP and Central Valley Project, he said.

Dry conditions are expected to continue in California and the Southwest this spring and summer, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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