California expects bad news from snowpack survey

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(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – State water managers were expecting more bad news Thursday as they take the season’s last measurement of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, a key source of water in drought-stricken California.

The Department of Water Resources survey is meant to gauge the amount of water that has begun melting from the mountain snowpack into streams and reservoirs.

The Sierra snowpack is an essential element of California’s water supply – it accounts for about one-third of the state’s water.

The last measurement was on April 1, considered the peak of the snow season. It showed that the state’s snowpack was about 32 percent of average water content.

Complicating matters, water managers say the northern Sierra snowpack that feeds California’s major reservoirs is 9 percent of average, and those reservoirs are only half full.

The third year of drought conditions in California has had a ripple effect through the state’s environment and economy.

Because of the lack of water, farmers have fallowed tens of thousands of acres and anticipate they won’t have work for thousands of farmworkers. Ranchers have had to sell off parts of their herds to cut costs as free-range grasses failed to grow as abundantly as usual.

The lack of water will affect numerous species that live in California’s rivers and streams, home to 37 fish species that are endangered.

The state also has responded to twice the number of wildfires this year than usual. It’s bolstered firefighting crews to prepare for what’s expected to be a busy fire season through the summer and fall.

Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a drought emergency, and on April 25 issued a second executive order in an effort to help firefighters, farmers and cities more quickly respond to the drought.

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