California drought: ‘The driest months are still to come’ |

California drought: ‘The driest months are still to come’

Margaret Moran
Bluebird skies and crunchy, bare fields greeted Frank Gehrke, chief of California's Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, in his final snow survey of the year last Thursday at Phillips Station.
Tom Lotshaw / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

TAHOE/TRUCKEE — It’s going to be a dry summer.

Last Thursday, the final survey of the Sierra Nevada snowpack for 2013-14 found more bare ground than snow, with the statewide water content at 18 percent of average.

That normally provides about a third of the water for California’s farms and cities, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources.

Additionally, Thursday’s electronic readings showed water content at 7 percent of average in the northern Sierra snowpack, which helps fill major state reservoirs.

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As a result, DWR Director Mark Cowin is stressing the importance of conservation.

“Anyone who doesn’t think conservation is important should drive up the hill and take a look,” he said in a statement. “Coupled with half our normal rainfall and low reservoir storage, our practically nonexistent snowpack reinforces the message that we need to save every drop we can just to meet basic needs.”

He’s not alone in that call.

On April 25, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order to strengthen the state’s ability to manage water and habitat effectively in drought conditions, while calling on Californians to redouble their efforts to conserve water.

“The driest months are still to come in California and extreme drought conditions will get worse,” Brown said in a statement. “… I call on every city, every community, every Californian to conserve water in every way possible.”

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 76 percent of California was in “extreme drought” as of April 29.

While the statewide situation is bleak, locally, water supplies for the North Tahoe and Truckee Donner public utility districts are fine, officials said Tuesday.

“Everything is where it should be,” said Steven Poncelet, TDPUD public information and conservation manager.

While the districts don’t anticipate shortages this summer, both are encouraging residents to conserve water.

In January, Brown declared a drought state of emergency, calling for a 20 percent voluntary reduction among residents, an action supported by regional agencies, including NTPUD, TDPUD and the Tahoe City PUD.

Some ways to conserve include limiting lawn watering and car washing; taking shorter showers; turning water off while brushing teeth and shaving; and running the dishwasher and washing machine only when full.


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