Update on California drought, snowpack, reservoirs
The 2021 water year was the second driest on record, and the state of California had been hoping for a wet winter. Rains and snows from January through March, however, were the lowest on record. As of Apr. 1, the state’s snowpack was just 38 percent of average. Per current estimates, the entirety of California is now under drought conditions, with nearly 99.9 percent of the state currently reported as suffering from moderate to extreme drought. Every county in California is under a drought emergency proclamation.
California drought area
Source: NDMC, McKeany-Flavell
About 59.8 percent of the state is thought to be in extreme drought vs 1.4 percent three months ago, a clear deterioration of conditions. This week, 0.2 percent of California was deemed to be under exceptional drought conditions, the first time in four months—still larger than the 0.14 percent of the state that is only abnormally dry. A year ago, in addition to nearly 57.4 percent of extreme drought, another 15.9 percent of the state was reported as under exceptional drought conditions. Snowpack is among the lowest levels in decades, estimated statewide at 15 percent of average.
In addition, the average statewide snow water content is 9 percent of estimated needs. Compared to historical snowpack averages (snow water equivalents) for Sierra Nevada, the Northern Sierra is 23 percent of typical, Central Sierra 16 percent, and Southern Sierra 7 percent.
Data on reservoirs is mixed. All 12 major water reservoirs operated by the state are at least 25 percent full. That said, only two reservoirs are above their historical average, and the largest reservoirs range from around 50 to 70 percent of that average.
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