December 31, 2008

Low snow means Calif. water rationing

California water rationing is almost certain, with Sierra Nevada snow levels below average despite recent winter storms, officials said.

The water content of the snow -- the key measurement for how much water will flow into reservoirs -- is 83 percent of normal, indicating a fairly dry start to the snow season after two consecutive dry years, officials said.

Over the last two weeks, the snow has been good and there have been some strong storms, senior state meteorologist Elissa Lynn told the San Francisco Chronicle.

But we're certainly not at any point yet in making up for the deficit from the last two years, she said.

California's water system is crumbling under the pressure of a booming population combined with an aging delivery infrastructure and ongoing environmental battles, the newspaper said.

A two-year drought has left reservoirs at rock-bottom levels and forced rural and urban water cutbacks.

Forecasters predict another dry winter this year, based on cooler-than-normal temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, which affects weather patterns.

Unfortunately, that's frequently the sign of a dry West, Frank Gehrke, chief of snow surveys for the state Department of Water Resources, told the newspaper.

The Sierra Nevada -- home of Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park -- is the source of most of California's water supply.