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Water Content of Statewide Snowpack Fraction of April 1 Average

Dept. of Water Resources announces figure on Monday.

Despite a rainy March, the water content of the snowpack in the Sierra Mountains is only 55 percent of the April 1 full season average, the California Department of Water Resources said on Monday.

"An unusually wet March improved conditions, but did not make up for the previous dry months," DWR Director Mark Cowin said in a news release.

"The take-home message is that we've had a dry winter and although good reservoir storage will lessen the impacts this summer, we need to be prepared for a potentially dry 2013," Cowin said.

The mountain snowpack normally provides about one-third of the water for California's households, industries and farms.

April's measurement of the snowpack's water content is considered the most important of the year because the snowpack in April is normally at its peak before it begins to melt into streams, reservoirs and aquifers in the spring and summer, the Department of Water Resources said.

The snowpack is measured manually and by real-time sensors on the first of the month between January and May.

Three manual readings off state Highway 50 near Echo Summit ranged between 48 and 61 percent.

Electronic readings in the northern mountains is 78 percent of the April 1 seasonal average, the Department said.

April 1 readings in the central Sierra were 51 percent of the April 1 average and 39 percent in the southern Sierra. The statewide number is 55 percent. The snowpack water content on March 1 was only 34 percent of the April 1 average in the northern ranges, 28 percent in the central Sierra and 29 percent in the southern Sierra. Statewide it was 30 percent of the April average on March 1.

The Department of Water Resources said the state has above average reservoir storage as summer approaches because of runoff from last winter's storms.

Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project's principal reservoir, is 107 percent of average for the date at 84 percent capacity and Lake Shasta north of Redding, the federal Central Valley Project's largest reservoir, is at 104 percent of the average, which is 86 percent of capacity for the date.

The Department of Water Resources said it will be able to deliver 50 percent of the four million acre-feet of State Water Project water requests this year. A 50 percent allocation is not severely low, the Department of Water Resources said. Last year the State Water Project delivered 80 percent of the four million acre-feet requested for 2011.

An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons of water, enough to cover one acre to a depth of one foot.

Twenty-nine public agencies in the State Water Project supply more than 25 million Californians and nearly one million acres of irrigated farmland.

— Bay City News

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