Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Snow survey not promising so far


FRANK GEHRKE, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Survey for the Department of Water Resources, right, conducts a snow survey assisted by Angelique Fabbiani-Leon, a civil engineering student at UC Davis, left, near the intersection of Sierra-at-Tahoe Road and Highway 50 at Phillips Station on Friday, Jan. 3. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

From page A1 | January 06, 2014 | 3 Comments

There was plenty of sun but not much snow at Phillips Station as staff from the California Department of Water Resources conducted its first snow survey of the season on Friday, Jan. 3.

Taking samples from seven different spots, Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Survey for the Department of Water Resources, reported finding a snow depth of 9.3 inches and 2.3 inches of water content, which is only 20 percent of normal.

On average, the Jan. 1 snowpack water content at Phillips Station should be 12 inches.

“This is not a very promising start to the season,” said Gehrke, who noted that California gets most of its snowpack during the months of December through February, with occasional storms in March.

“We’ve had minimal storm activity this year as a high pressure center built up over the Pacific Northwest has shifted all the storms up into Canada and then on to the East Coast,” he said. “Not to say that things can’t turn around. We’ve seen it before. Snow accumulation is governed by five or six storms and we’re losing quite a few of those. The further we go through the season, the less likely that becomes.”

Gehrke said water rationing has already started in certain jurisdictions because of the prospect of another dry year.

“We need an above average snowpack to get our reservoirs back to where they need to be,” he said. “An Interagency Drought Task Force is meeting today to examine what can be done, who is going to be impacted and what help is out there. The East Coast is being hammered, but if the weather shifted to California, suddenly we’d be back on track. It just depends on where the jet stream is hitting.”

Statewide, manual and electronic readings record the snowpack water content at about 20 percent of average for this time of year.

In a press release, DWR said it estimates it will be able to deliver only five percent of the slightly more than four million acre-feet of State Water Project water requested for the calendar year 2014 by the 29 public agencies that collectively supply more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland.

“While we hope conditions improve, we are fully mobilized to streamline water transfers and take every action possible to ease the effects of dry weather on farms, homes and businesses as we face a possible third consecutive dry year,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin, who urged residents to make water conservation a daily habit.

The snowpack normally provides about a third of the water used in California as it slowly melts into streams and reservoirs in spring and early summer.

Manual readings taken by DWR and scores of cooperating agencies on Friday and on or about the first of each month through May will augment and check the accuracy of real-time electronic readings.

Although anticipating dismal water content readings this week, DWR weather watchers note that it’s early in the season and this winter could still turn out average or wet. The concern, however, is that irrigation-dependent San Joaquin Valley farms and some other areas will suffer if the state has a third consecutive dry year. It would also bring higher wildfire risks.

Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s (SWP) principal reservoir, today is at only 36 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity (57 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, is at 37 percent of its 4.5 million acre-foot capacity (57 percent of average for the date). San Luis Reservoir, a critical south-of-Delta reservoir for both the SWP and CVP, is a mere 30 percent of its 2 million acre-foot capacity (43 percent of average for the date) due both to dry weather and Delta pumping restrictions last winter to protect salmon and Delta smelt. Delta water is pumped into the off stream reservoir in winter and early spring for summer use in the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and Southern California.

In November, DWR announced an initial allocation of only five percent of the amount of State Water Project water requested for calendar year 2014.  Although the initial allocation is an early-season, conservative estimate of how much water DWR anticipates it will be able to deliver, the 5 percent initial estimate for 2014 and for calendar year 2010 are the lowest ever.

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.


Discussion | 3 comments

  • EDC ResidentJanuary 05, 2014 - 9:41 pm

    EID has stated to the BOS there is enough water allocated to the currently planned developments and the developments pending review and approval within EDC. It's one thing to have allocated water, it's another to have the water. The job growth LUPPU has focused on is largely based on the construction jobs created by these aforementioned developments and the retail business sustained by the increased residency brought in by the developments. The true job creation within EDC should be focused on industrial, scientific and manufacturing employment. These are the jobs that sustain a decent living for EDC residents, not the building of homes and the subsequent minimum wage retail jobs created. LUPPU is a sham as is EDAC. The BOS constantly depends on Planning Staff and County Council to help on their decision making when it comes to the financial health of the county. EID wants to raise water rates, and developers are salivating predators waiting to come in for the kill. LUPPU conducts the three ring circus for the show. The good old boys and their crony's need to be booted out and fresh blood brought in to focus on bringing in true sustainable jobs and increase the financial well being of the county's residents. The current back room deals of handshakes between developers, politicians and long time land holders standing to profit on a scam need to be a thing of the past, not the present and certainly not the future.

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  • 1036-FrankJanuary 06, 2014 - 9:30 am

    Must be a drought because the bored media created a circus of the ruins of "Mormon Island" being exposed and causing a tourist event with a few foundations of piles of rocks and people were driving for a hundred miles to see it. The reality is, in modern recorded times, there hasn't been a real drought yet. There are documented mega-droughts of 200 years that were confirmed by the analysis of submerged trees in this county's high elevation lakes. Anyone who lately has been out in the hills, along the low streams and dry creek beds, and out in the brown cattle ranges knows these are the same conditions seen in the fall of 1976 which led to the drought of 76-79 which was a short dry spell. Unless some type of weather shift is seen, providing any further new developments with water resources will risk aggravating the growing shortage and the amount of water users now on the west end of the county are obviously much higher then in 1976, especially the increase being pumped out of Folsom Lake, and the results could be that much more severe. My question for EID and surrounding water agencies that use Folsom Lake would be if they have enough other supplies if Folsom Lake drops too low and can't be used as a water source?

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  • cookie65January 07, 2014 - 5:48 am

    I have been talking with a relative this morning in Atlanta where it is 6 degrees with a wind chill of minus 10. While I have been reading about the climatologist al sharpton.

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