Officials will trek into the mountains on Thursday to measure California’s snowpack again, in the hopes that recent storms have added to the state’s water supply. The California Department of Water Resources will perform the second survey of the season in the Sierra Nevada. Winter snow provides drinking water for much of the state as it melts in the spring and summer and flows into reservoirs for storage. The Sierra snowpack was 67 percent of normal in this winter’s first manual measurement earlier this month. The amount of snow is measured monthly through the winter at more than 260 locations to help water managers plan for how much they can deliver to customers later in the year.
Archive for month: January, 2019
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The Department of Water Resources conducted California’s second manual snow survey of the year Thursday at Phillips Station, which offered some good news for the state. DWR water resource engineer John King announced that snow water content doubled since the start of the month at the survey site near Echo Summit. “The snow depth today is 50 inches and the snow-water equivalent is 18 inches, which results in 98 percent of average to date and 71 percent of the April 1 average at this location,” King said. “This is a significant increase since the last survey, where we had just measured 25.5 inches of depth and 9 inches of snow-water equivalent.”
Arizona lawmakers passed a historic Colorado River drought deal Thursday afternoon, about seven hours before a midnight deadline set by the federal government. Gov. Doug Ducey promptly signed the legislation, clearing the way for Arizona to join in the three-state Drought Contingency Plan together with California and Nevada. “There’s a lot more work to be done to ensure that Arizona is prepared for a drier water future,” Ducey said as he signed. A crowd of policy advisers and lawmakers applauded in the old state Capitol building. He said the deal represented “the culmination of years of discussions” and called it a “historic bipartisan achievement.”
The Bureau of Reclamation, the Interior Department’s Western water bureaucracy that saw its dam-building heyday in the 1960s, has risen in stature once again in the Trump administration. Reclamation has flexed its muscles on Colorado River drought management plans, setting a deadline for today for states to act and threatening to step in if they don’t. And it has been the administration’s key player in trying to fulfill President Trump’s campaign promise to deliver more water to California farmers, squeezing the state and forging ahead on a dam project California says it doesn’t want and is illegal. To key water players, the bureau is more active now than it has been in decades.
California’s Imperial Irrigation District will get the last word on the seven-state Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans. And IID could end up with $200 million to restore the badly polluted and fast-drying Salton Sea. Thursday, as the clock ticked toward a midnight deadline set by a top federal official, all eyes had been on Arizona. But lawmakers there approved the Colorado River drought deal with about seven hours to spare. IID, an often-overlooked southeastern California agricultural water district, appears to have thrown a last-minute monkey wrench into the process.
New snow measurements to be taken Thursday are expected to confirm that snow levels in the Sierra Nevada are on par with the long-term average, thanks to a series of storms that thrashed California in January. Those results may sound pretty ho hum, but getting to average is a pretty big thing in today’s topsy turvy world of snow analysis, where the absence of pending disaster due to too little snow is something to celebrate.
The San Diego County Water Authority on Tuesday secured nearly $18 million in savings on future debt payments for the region’s water ratepayers by refinancing bonds used to build a major pipeline connected to the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Savings achieved this week topped earlier projections of $13.6 million through June 2046 on a net present-value basis due to strong demand for the $185 million issuance. Forty-five investors made orders for the bonds that totaled nearly $2 billion. The Water Authority benefitted from having one of the only deals of its kind on the market this week – after waiting for more than a year for market conditions to improve – and ongoing investor interest in the Carlsbad project.
It’s not just skiers who have been whipsawed this season between fear of another dry winter and delight over the epic January snowfall in the Sierra Nevada. Also paying close attention: water wonks. Why? Because melting Sierra snow provides somewhere between one-third and one-half of California’s water supply. What determines just how much water is derived from that snow is called the “snowpack.”
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced a statewide increase in State Water Project allocations for 2019. The majority of SWP contractors now stand to receive 15 percent of their requests for the 2019 calendar year, up from the initial 10 percent announced in December. Allocations are based on conservative assumptions and may change depending on rain and snow received this winter. “The adjustment in allocations is the result of increased precipitation in December and January, which is good news,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “However, we must continue to account for climate change and the variability of California’s weather and balance the need for flood capacity during the winter while maintaining reserves in anticipation of future dry periods.”
Municipal bond buyers spent most of Wednesday in a defensive stance as the Federal Reserve met to decide the course of monetary policy. The Federal Open Market Committee voted unanimously to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 2.25% to 2.5%. The Fed “will be patient as it determines what future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate may be appropriate to support” a strong labor market and inflation near 2%,” the FOMC said in a statement.