Storms great for skiers, only a drop in the bucket for California drought relief


By Kathryn Reed

While skiers flocked to enjoy the 16 inches of fresh snow that fell overnight at Sierra-at-Tahoe, state water officials could only shake their heads.

These late storms are good, but nowhere good enough to pull California out of what is now a three-year drought. What these storms are good for is salvaging a mediocre ski season, helping replenish the groundwater tables and warding off what is still bound to be an early fire season. The moisture also means this won’t go down as the driest year in the state’s history, but it could still be in the top five.

Statewide, the snowpack is 32 percent of normal. At the base of Sierra it’s slightly worse at 29 percent. That reading April 1 near Echo Summit showed a snow depth of 33.7 inches and water content at 8.1 inches.

Caltrans was out March 31 laying down a solution on Highway 50 before the storm arrived. Photo/LTN

Caltrans was out March 31 laying down a solution on Highway 50 before the storm arrived. Photo/LTN

What is alarming is that Tuesday’s measurement is considered the most significant of the year because the bulk of the snow for the season should have fallen. From here forward it should be more about melting than accumulating.

Gov. Jerry Brown called a state of emergency earlier this year. Many cities are rationing water. Reservoirs look like it’s mid-summer or worse.

“We’re already seeing farmland fallowed and cities scrambling for water supplies,” Mark Cowin, director of the Department of Water Resources, said in a statement. “We can hope that conditions improve, but time is running out and conservation is the only tool we have against nature’s whim.”

It’s the snowpack in the Sierra that feeds the reservoirs downstream. They in turn provide a significant portion of the states’ drinking and irrigation water.

Lake Oroville in Butte County is at 49 percent capacity, when normally this time of year it is at 64 percent. Shasta Lake north of Redding is at 48 percent of capacity and should be at 60 percent.


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Comments (7)
  1. A.B. says - Posted: April 1, 2014

    Noah’s Ark could float down the Truckee River, and they’d still say we’re in a severe drought.

    The reality is that California’s water system was designed for a population of 12,000,000.

  2. Ice Gal says - Posted: April 1, 2014

    It is not a drought. It is climate change caused mainly by overpopulation

  3. Dogula says - Posted: April 1, 2014

    Climate change?? Overpopulation?? SERIOUSLY?? Does ANYBODY here have any knowledge of California’s history with regards to weather and climate?
    So now climate change is caused by overpopulation? Ice Gal, do you have kids? Do you plan to? Or do you just want everyone else to make the sacrifice?
    It’s gettin’ crazier by the minute.

  4. cosa pescado says - Posted: April 1, 2014

    So dawg….
    How old is the earth?

    You are getting more ignorant by the week.
    Before you get all kerfuffled, I am not just calling you names, I offer you the case of ‘you are x because of yzq’. In this case you are ignorant because ‘the climate changed in the past’ is the most ignorant rebuttal to anthropogenic climate change. And you don’t even believe that a 100k year old ice core can even exist.

  5. tahoe resident says - Posted: April 2, 2014

    Why always the negative articles after we get precipitation. Try to look at things a different way, you know glass half full type of attitude. Everytime it rains or snows we get these doom and gloom people saying well its not enough. Well its a lot better than nothing!

  6. rock4tahoe says - Posted: April 2, 2014

    AB. Noah’s Ark on the Upper Truckee? Really? Did you not read the actual data on snowpack and reservoir levels? There are answers to this problem that are based on actual data collection, Science, Physics and Mathematics. Try to keep up.

  7. rock4tahoe says - Posted: April 2, 2014

    Dog. I believe Ice was alluding the the fact that we Americans use about 300 gallons of water per day, while in Africa the average use is 5 gallons. Humans need fresh water.

    Globally, the growing human population needs more fresh water every year. Unfortunately, more fresh water is lost to the Oceans every year. Obviously, we need to start planning for solutions now.