California snowpack is good news for cities, farms |

California snowpack is good news for cities, farms

The Associated Press
A branches from a tree is seen emerging from the snowpack as Frank Gehrke, chief of snow surveys for the Department of Water Resources, crosses a snow covered meadow while doing the snow survey near Echo Summit, Calif., Monday, May 2, 2011. The final snow survey of the season found the snow pack to be 66 inches deep, with a water content of 33.7 inches which is about 209 percent of normal at this location for this time of the year.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Warmer spring temperatures have begun melting California’s formidable Sierra snowpack, but it’s still deep enough to make state water managers feel at ease.

The state Department of Water Resources took its final snow survey of the season on Monday and found the water content in the snowpack was 144 percent of normal. That number was 165 percent a month ago and keeps the state on track to provide 80 percent of the water requested by its contractors.

The snowpack supplies 25 million California residents and almost a million acres of farmland. This year’s water allocation is the highest since 2006, when water contractors received 100 percent of their requested amount.

This year’s snowpack measurements signal the wettest winter and spring since 1995 and officially ended a three-year drought that had been declared by the Schwarzenegger administration.

Still, department Director Mark Cowin warned against complacency, saying in a press release that “California can quickly turn from wet to dry.”

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In recent years, thousands of farm acres in the Central Valley have lain fallow because of lower-than-normal rain and snowfall, and because concern for dwindling fish populations has restricted pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Water delivery fell to as low as 35 percent of requests in 2008.

But snowfall in the Sierra Nevada this season reached a near-record high of 63.8 feet, second only to the 65 feet recorded in 1950-51. That has helped fill most major state reservoirs beyond normal levels, including Northern California’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville, which are at capacity.

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