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El Nino-Induced Snow Proves to be ‘Disappointing’ for Drought-Stricken California

Much-needed mountain snow and rain returned to California this winter, but fell short of expectations amid a super El Niño.

The official snow season for California’s Sierra Nevada came to an end at the start of April on a below-normal note and one that AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark called “disappointing.” The amount of water stored in the snow for the entire mountain chain averaged 14 percent below normal on April 1, according to the California Cooperative Snow Surveys.

A Delta Tunnel Project’s Lofty Ambitions Have Been Scaled Back

Only a close look at the Middle River revealed anything amiss in this part of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Instead of flowing north toward San Francisco Bay, as nature intended, the Middle was headed south. On the other side of Bacon Island, the Old River was doing the same thing.

The backward flow of these two obscure channels is at the core of a proposal to build California’s biggest water project in decades: a $15-billion diversion and tunnel system in the delta, the ecologically failing hub of the state’s waterworks.

Drought-Stricken California Ponders Future of Conservation

Taking a regional approach to saving water in California’s drought, state regulators suggest relaxing or dropping conservation orders for El Nino-soaked Northern Californians, while keeping in place strict rules for residents of drier Southern California.

Officials on Monday will launch a discussion about the best approach to saving water as California’s drought modestly improves, but clearly hasn’t ended as it stretches into a fifth year.

Calif. Delta Smelt Lawsuit Tossed as Moot

A federal judge dismissed an environmental lawsuit challenging California’s now-dismantled emergency salinity barrier across a channel of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in response to the drought.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill ruled on March 31 that the complaint from the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy and Reliability (CESAR) is moot.
The 750-foot-wide rock barrier was built in May 2015 as a temporary fix to prevent additional saltwater from fouling freshwater supplies to approximately 25 million people, according to the defendant California Department of Water Resources.

California Drought Patterns Are Recurring… And ‘Triple R’ May Be To Blame

It looks like California will have to be extra resilient in the coming years, as a new study revealed that the recent droughts threatening the Golden State will become more common and will possibly bring more extreme dry spells in the future. This is due to a blocking ridge, dubbed the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,” that deflects storms from the state.

“The epic drought is far from over. These scientists show that the frequency of atmospheric circulation patterns that worsen drought conditions has increased over the long-term,” said Anjuli Bamzai.

California Water-Saving Rules to Ease, but Nobody’s Off the Hook

Poised to ease California’s mandatory drought rules after rebounding rain and snow levels this winter, state water officials on Monday made it clear that — even where reservoirs are 100 percent full — no community is likely to get an entirely free pass from conservation targets this summer.

“One average year does not mean that we can forget about saving water,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board. “We don’t want to let our guard down.”

Why Southern California May See Easier Water Conservation Goals Despite State Missing Target

Despite record-low water savings in February, winter storms in Northern California filled reservoirs and returned the missing snowpack, easing the drought crisis and triggering softer water conservation targets, state water officials said Monday.

While many parts of the state may be headed into a fifth year of drought, the punch of El Niño that landed upstate will help Southern California communities.


Californians Fall a Bit Short of Brown’s Call for 25% Cut in Water Use After 9 Months of Conservation

After nine months of fervent conservation, drought-fatigued Californians narrowly missed meeting the water-savings target set by Gov. Jerry Brown a year ago.

Urban dwellers reduced their consumption by 23.9% between June and February, state regulators said Monday, just short of the 25% cut required under Brown’s executive order. Still, the conservation efforts saved about 368 billion gallons of water, or enough to supply nearly 6 million Californians for a year.

County’s Drought Conservation Plummets

While El Niño has put a dent in California’s historic drought, conservation efforts by urban water users in the state have tapered off in recent months — a trend reflected in San Diego County.

Regulators announced Monday that residents and businesses didn’t meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory statewide conservation target of 25 percent — on both a monthly and cumulative basis. The customers failed significantly in February, the most recent month for verified data. It was by far the worst monthly showing since the program began last June.

Drought Still Grips Southern California, Keeping Pressure on State Water Supplies

El Niño has been little more than a cruel joke in Southern California this winter. The torrential rains haven’t materialized. Groundwater aquifers have been pumped to near-historic lows. A sizable reservoir two hours east of Los Angeles, built for $2 billion as drought insurance, is two-thirds empty, its boat launch closed.

“It’s actually been a shockingly bad year,” said Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the umbrella agency that delivers water to much of the region.