California may be dangerously low on money, but at least it has water – for now.
As was expected, Gov. Jerry Brown today proclaimed an end to the state’s drought after big increases in statewide rainfall and mountain snowpack. He urged Californians, however, to keep conserving water.
“While this season’s storms have lifted us out of the drought, it’s critical that Californians continue to watch their water use,” Brown said in a news release. “Drought or no drought, demand for water in California always outstrips supply. Continued conservation is key.”
Brown’s proclamation followed the Department of Water Resources’ fourth snow survey of the season, which found that water content in California’s mountain snowpack is 165 percent of the April 1 full season average.
Most of California’s major reservoirs are also above normal storage levels. Butte County’s Lake Oroville – the State Water Project’s principal reservoir – is at 104 percent of average for the date, or about 80 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity. And Lake Shasta north of Redding – the federal Central Valley Project’s largest reservoir – is at 111 percent of average for the date, or about 91 percent of its 4.5 million acre-foot capacity.
DWR estimates it will be able to deliver 70 percent of requested State Water Project water this year, an estimate that probably will be adjusted upward as hydrologists make adjustments later for snowpack and runoff readings.
California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said that by some measures, California’s drought never really ends.
“Even with all this rain and snow, farmers in parts of the Central Valley still face water shortages because of conflicts over endangered species fish protection and other restrictions,” Wenger said in a news release. “The federal Central Valley Project is offering only two-thirds of contract supplies this year to many of its farm customers, and supplies from the State Water Project will be only slightly better. In Southern California, soaring water prices force farmers to cut down productive avocado trees. Farmers have made significant improvement in water efficiency—producing ‘more crop per drop’—and that will continue. But continued shortages force many farmers into tough decisions about whether they can sustain their crops and their businesses.”
Wenger said much of the water swelling California rivers and streams this spring represents “a lost opportunity.”
“All of us will wish we had that water available when we have our next dry winter. That could be next year, or the year after, but we know drought will come again, probably soon,” he said. “California needs more reservoirs to capture more of these flood flows when they occur, so we can both lessen the chances for catastrophic floods and bank that water for the dry years we know will come.”
To that end, he urged Brown to push for passage of the Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2012, an $11.14 billion bond ballot measure to bankroll an overhaul of the state’s water system. Big farm groups and some labor unions representing construction workers support the measure, while some lawmakers say its weighted down with pork-barrel spending and many environmentalists object to agricultural water subsidies, water privatization, dam construction and insufficient emphasis on conservation and recycling.
Read Brown’s proclamation, after the jump…
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