Thursday, January 28, 2010

Storms boost Sierra snowpack

Valerie Gibbons in the Visalia Times-Delta (California): The Valley's drought is far from over, but last week's spate of storms certainly helped. The water content for the southern Sierra's snowpack is at 126 percent of normal for this week, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

That's good news with three months to go for the Sierra's snow season, but the Valley has a lot of catching up to do. The snowpack for the southern third of the Sierra is only at 67 percent for the full year. Statewide, the total water content is also at 67 percent, according to the DWR. At the 9,500-foot elevation in Tulare County, snowpack water content was at 118 percent of normal to date.

The Valley's reservoirs will need plenty of water to recharge after three years of drought…. A total of 5.61 inches of rain has fallen in the Visalia-Tulare since last summer, representing just 51 percent of the average annual rainfall. The last spate of storms brought area rainfall up to 108 percent of normal for this date.

Bruce George, the water master for the Kaweah and St. Johns Rivers Association, said it was a good start. "We're certainly thankful for all of the rainfall to date," he said. "We just have to wait and see if it holds."

Elected leaders in Sacramento are waiting to see whether California will be able to climb out of its three-year drought this winter, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tries to sell an $11 billion water bond to the voters in November. The bond would build more storage and provide upgrades to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta's water system.

If California is unable to catch up, water supplies from the aqueduct to westside farmers could shrink as much as 40 percent during the next two decades because of climate change and sea-level rise, according to a new report by the DWR released this week…..

Snow at the lake in Whiskytown Nation Recreation Area, California.

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