Water

California drought conditions worsen after water survey

The new readings show that the amount of water in the snowpack in California’s mountains is 39 percent of the average.

Sacramento, Calif. — California is experiencing one of its driest spring starts in decades, and without a heavy dose of April and May showers, the state’s drought will deepen, potentially leading to stricter conditions, data showed Friday. Water regulations and another devastating wildfire season.

The new readings show that the amount of water in the snowpack in California’s mountains is 39 percent of the average. This is the lowest reading since the last drought ended in 2015 and the third time it has been this low since 1988.

About one-third of California’s water supply comes from snow, as it melts and flows into rivers and reservoirs. April 1, usually the peak snow season, is used as a benchmark for forecasting the state’s water supply during the drier, hotter spring and summer months.

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About 11 inches (28 centimeters) of water accumulated in the snow in the Sierra Nevada on California’s eastern edge, according to the state Department of Water Resources. It was the lowest reading since the depth of the last drought seven years ago, when California ended its winter at 5 percent of normal water levels in the mountains.

The numbers marked a disappointing end to California’s winter, which began with a strong storm in December that brought snowpack to 160 percent of the average. But there has been little precipitation since January 1.

A storm that brought heavy rain and snow to parts of the state did little to change the course of the drought earlier this week. Higher-than-usual temperatures caused snow to melt and evaporate faster than normal, state officials said.

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Nearly the entire state of California and much of the western U.S. is in severe to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Last July, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked people to cut their water consumption by 15% from 2020 levels, but so far, water consumption has dropped by only 6%.

The ongoing drought has prompted state officials to call on cities and other local water providers to step up their conservation plans. Local governments may further restrict when people can water lawns and wash cars, limit the use of water for decorative or decorative purposes, and increase enforcement against people who let sprinklers run onto sidewalks or engage in other wasteful practices.

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