State’s Long-Term Water Outlook Still Cloudy After Dry February

WaterState water officials continue to encourage Californians to keep conserving as a warm and dry February left the statewide snowpack below the average for the start of March.

The snowpack was just 83% of the March 1 average, the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) reported in a news release following its third snowpack survey of the season.

“The statewide readings suggest this may not be a drought-busting year unless California receives heavy rain this month as it did during the ‘March Miracles’ of 1991 and 1995,” stated the DWR news release.

DWR said half the state’s annual water falls as rain or snow in December, January and February. Although precipitation in December and January was well above the two-month average, rainfall in October, November and February was far below normal, as was snowfall since December 1, DWR reported.

Levels at eight reservoirs with capacities exceeding 1 million acre-feet were below average storage for March 1, according to DWR. The levels ranged from 34% at Exchequer Reservoir in Central California to 83% at Lake Shasta in the north. The only major reservoir with storage above its historical average was Folsom Lake (111%), east of Sacramento.

Meanwhile, the statewide conservation rate dropped from 18.4% in December 2015 to 17.1% in January 2016, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

Still, the average water use per capita was the lowest since reporting began in June 2014, the board said, declining from 67 gallons per person per day in December 2015 to 61 gallons in January 2016.

Cumulative water savings since June 2015 were at 24.8%, just short of the 25% goal set by the Governor in his April 1, 2015 executive order.

Drought emergency water conservation rules adopted by the state water board last spring remain in effect through October. The board said it may revisit the rules in April after reviewing statewide water conditions, including reservoir level reports, the snowpack, water conservation and how well individual communities are stretching potable and nonpotable water supplies through recycling and other measures.

The National Weather Service was predicting storms headed for Northern California over the weekend.

Staff Contact: Valerie Nera