April 1 snowpack is at all-time low

 

Governor Jerry Brown visited the Phillips Station off Highway 50 near the Sierra-at-Tahoe Road on Wednesday, April 1, to announce mandatory water reductions, the first ever ordered in California history. At the Phillips Station, Gov. Brown met California Department of Water Resources officials who reported that it is unprecedented in the annals of the department to ever encounter bare ground at the Phillips Station (6,800 feet) snow-survey site on April 1.

Typically, five or six feet of snow would be on the ground at the site this time of year. Statewide, the paltry pack averages six percent of normal. A study released in December 2014 found the current drought is the worst going back to the year 800. 

Researchers looked at tree-ring samples from hundreds of blue oaks, and 37 droughts were identified that lasted three years or more. 

Not only is the current drought worse, it’s already more severe than droughts that have lasted four to nine years. 

And if that’s not alarming enough, scientists recorded 63.5 degrees on March 24 in Antarctica. That record-high temperature was the warmest day ever recorded there. What was most surprising about the reading was that it occurred in autumn, nearly three months past the warmest time of the year.

Just two months ago, Californians received good news based on the fact that statewide water use prompted by strict conservation measures was down 22 percent in 2014. Now more cuts are mandated.

The governor’s order requires cities and towns to cut water use by 25 percent. The latest mandate also bans the watering of grass on street medians and requires farmers to report their water use to state regulators. The reductions are expected to save 1.5 million acre feet of water over the next nine months. 

The new mandate comes after state lawmakers gave final approval to a $1 billion drought relief package on Thursday, March 26; Gov. Brown signed it into law the following day. Snow surveys, conducted on or near the first of the month from January to May each year, are still in process in Sequoia-Kings Canyon  but the results are expected to be the same six percent or so of average depending on elevation.  

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