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Environment

January Snow Survey In California "Dismally Meager"

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Joe Moore
/
Valley Public Radio

The California Department of Water Resources says the state’s snowpack is “dismally meager.” As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a lack of snow in the Sierra is keeping rivers low and drying up some reservoirs. 

While December storms brought some hope that California’s drought would ease, January’s second snow survey shattered it. 

Dave Rizzardo: “Unfortunately it seems like it’s a trend in the last three or four years, that’s January’s just been a dud.”

Dave Rizzardo is Chief of Snow Surveys for DWR. Statewide, California only has a quarter of the water in the snowpack that would be normal for this date. January is usually the wettest month – but in some parts of the state, it’s shaping up to be the driest January on record.

Rizzardo: “In a nutshell, rainfall has been better in the northern state, but that didn’t translate to snowpack, we’re pretty much across the board we’re in dire circumstances.”

One-third of the state relies on water that comes from melting Sierra snowpack. It flows into rivers and streams, and fills up reservoirs. At least it used to. Pete Kampa is with the Lake Don Pedro Community Services District, which gets water from Lake McClure in the Merced River watershed. Kampa says Lake McClure is drying up.

Kampa: “The precipitation that we receive is not going to recover the lake level, it’s going to go empty by the end of March, and it could take until May for that snowfall, the snowpack to have an impact on that Lake elevation.”

Lake McClure is a foot and a quarter lower than it has been at any time since it was constructed in the 1960’s. It holds just six percent of its capacity. If the lake level drops much lower, the emergency float pump system will no longer be able to pump water.

Kampa: “So how worried are you about this? My meter is at 110 percent, I laugh because I do that when I get nervous. It’s not something that the community was well-prepared for.”

The community has asked the state for emergency assistance. Meanwhile the US Drought monitor shows nearly 100 percent of California remains in a drought, with its intensity increasing.

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