|Frank Gehrke, chief of snow surveys for the California Department of Water Resources, left, leads his group out to measure snow levels near Echo Summit, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.|
Manual and electronic readings record the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20 percent of average for this time of year. That is a mere 7 percent of the average April 1 measurement, when the snowpack normally is at its peak before melting into streams and reservoirs to provide a third of the water used by California’s cities and farms.
“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. “And every Californian can help by making water conservation a daily habit.”
The last time California’s statewide snowpack was this dry was in 2012 when it also was 20 percent of the historical average. The readings today and in 2012 are the driest on record.
Today’s electronic readings indicate that water content in the northern mountains is 11 percent of normal for the date and 4 percent of the April 1 average. Electronic readings in the central Sierra show 21 percent of normal for the date and 8 percent of the April 1 average. The numbers for the southern Sierra are 30 percent of average for the date and 10 percent of the April 1 average.
In addition to the sparse snowpack, many areas of California ended calendar year 2013 with the lowest rainfall amounts on record. Normally one of California’s wettest spots with an average annual rainfall of nearly 100 inches, Gasquet Ranger Station in Del Norte County ended the year with only 43.46 inches. Sacramento, which normally gets about 18 inches, ended up with 5.74 inches of precipitation. And downtown Los Angeles, which since 1906 has averaged 14.74 inches of rain, ended the year with 3.4 inches, beating the previous low of 4.08 inches recorded in 1953.
DWR and cooperating agencies conduct manual snow surveys around the first of the month from January to May. The manual measurements supplement and check the accuracy of real-time electronic readings.