PWD Ends Drought Water Restrictions

Given California’s wet winter and ample current water supplies, all drought restrictions enacted in the past two years by the Palmdale Water District have been lifted.

The District Board of Directors voted unanimously on Monday to lift the restrictions by rescinding the Emergency Drought Regulations and the voluntary stage of the Water Shortage Contingency Plan.

Report Urges Metropolitan Water District to Abandon Newsom’s $16-Billion Delta Tunnel Plan

Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration have touted plans to build a tunnel to transport water beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, saying the project would modernize California’s water infrastructure and help the state adapt to climate change.

But an advocacy group is urging the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to abandon the $16-billion project, saying it doesn’t make financial sense for the state’s largest urban water agency.

Long Beach Looks to Invest More in Groundwater as Colorado River Shrinks

With the future of the Colorado River and the amount of water it will be able to deliver to Southern California in question, the Long Beach Utilities Department is looking at investing $157 million into its groundwater system, which could reduce the city’s reliance on expensive and diminishing imported water.

Groundwater accounts for about 60% of the water that Long Beach residents use each year, and the Colorado provides about 25% of the city’s supply, with the rest coming from the State Water Project, both of which can fluctuate with precipitation patterns.

This Year’s 100% Water Allocation in California Does Not Mean the Water Crisis is Over, Experts Say

The West may be out of the woods in ensuring its water supply this year, but the water crisis is still very much alive, experts caution.

Last week, the California Department of Natural Resources announced that the state would receive 100% water allocation for the first time since 2006, meaning that communities and farmers under the State Water Project would receive all of its water requests for the year.

State Water Project to Deliver 100% of Requested Supplies as Reservoirs Fill

The California Department of Water Resources announced Thursday that the State Water Project will be able to deliver 100% of requested water supplies this year thanks to full reservoirs following record winter rain and snow.

A Wet California Boosts Water Allocations to 100% for First Time in Nearly 20 Years

For the first time since 2006, California officials have increased allocations from the vital State Water Project to 100% of requested supplies, as reservoirs across the state are nearing capacity and an epic snowpack has yet to melt.

An unusually wet winter brought unprecedented snowfall and a succession of heavy rainstorms, pulling much of the state out of a punishing years-long drought and transforming the year’s water outlook.

California Sees Record Snowpack Levels, Boost in Water Supply

Molly White, Water Operations Manager for the State Water Project at the California Department of Water Resources, said atmospheric river storms have to led to near-record snowpack in many parts of the Sierra Nevada and reservoir storage is above average for this time of year.

Sierra Nevada Snowpack: One of the Largest on Record

Following three consecutive years of drought in California, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is one of the most bountiful in more than 40 years. While the snowpack and snow water equivalent is great news for water supply, there are concerns the record snowpack could create flooding issues.

The California Department of Water Resources electronic readings from 130 snow sensors placed throughout the state indicate the statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack’s snow water equivalent is 61.1 inches, or 237% of average for April 3. The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR’s water supply forecast.

Sierra Nevada snowpack

This year’s April result from the statewide snow sensor network is higher than any other reading since the snow sensor network was established in the mid-1980s. Before the network was established, the 1983 April 1 statewide summary from manual snow course measurements was 227% of average. The 1952 April 1 statewide summary for snow course measurements was 237% of average.

“This year’s severe storms and flooding is the latest example that California’s climate is becoming more extreme,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth after the April 3 snow survey at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. Photo: Fred Greaves/California DWR

“California’s climate is becoming more extreme”

“This year’s severe storms and flooding is the latest example that California’s climate is becoming more extreme,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “After the driest three years on record and devastating drought impacts to communities across the state, DWR has rapidly shifted to flood response and forecasting for the upcoming snowmelt. We have provided flood assistance to many communities who just a few months ago were facing severe drought impacts.”

Just as the drought years demonstrated that California’s water system is facing new climate challenges, this year is showing how the state’s flood infrastructure will continue to face climate-driven challenges for moving and storing as much of these flood water as possible.

Sierra Nevada snowpack-snow survey-DWR-

“This year’s result will go down as one of the largest snowpack years on record in California,” said Sean de Guzman, manager of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit. (R-to-L: de Guzman, Jacob Kollen, Water Resources Engineer in Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit, and Jordan Thoennes, Water Resources Engineer in Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit.) Photo: Kenneth James/California DWR

“One of the largest snowpack years on record”

“This year’s result will go down as one of the largest snowpack years on record in California,” said Sean de Guzman, manager of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit. “While 1952’s snow course measurements showed a similar result, there were fewer snow courses at that time, making it difficult to compare to today’s results. Because additional snow courses were added over the years, it is difficult to compare results accurately across the decades with precision, but this year’s snowpack is definitely one of the biggest the state has seen since the 1950s.”

Sierra Nevada-snowpack-April 2023-DWR

Snowpack varies by region

For California’s snow course measurements, only 1952, 1969 and 1983 recorded statewide results above 200% of the April 1 average. While above average across the state this year, snowpack varies considerably by region. The Southern Sierra snowpack is currently 300% of its April 1 average and the Central Sierra is at 237% of its April 1 average. However, the critical Northern Sierra, where the state’s largest surface water reservoirs are located, is at 192% of its April 1 average.

Flooding and spring snowmelt

The size and distribution of this year’s snowpack is also posing severe flood risk to areas of the state, especially the Southern San Joaquin Valley. DWR’s State-Federal Flood Operations Center (FOC) is supporting emergency response in the Tulare Lake Basin and Lower San Joaquin River by providing flood fight specialists to support ongoing flood response activities and by providing longer-term advanced planning activities.

The FOC and DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit are helping local agencies plan for the spring snowmelt season by providing hydraulic and hydrologic modeling and snowmelt forecasts specific to the Tulare Lake Basin that are informed by DWR’s snowmelt forecasting tools, including Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) surveys.

Storms this year have caused impacts across the state including flooding in the community of Pajaro and communities in Sacramento, Tulare, and Merced counties. The FOC has helped Californians by providing over 1.4 million sandbags, over 1 million square feet of plastic sheeting, and over 9,000 feet of reinforcing muscle wall, across the state since January.

State Water Project deliveries increased

On March 24, DWR announced an increase in the forecasted State Water Project deliveries to 75%, up from 35% announced in February, due to the improvement in the state’s water supplies. Governor Gavin Newsom has rolled back some drought emergency provisions that are no longer needed due to improved water conditions, while maintaining other measures that continue building up long-term water resilience and that support regions and communities still facing water supply challenges.

Sierra Nevada Snowpack-April 2023-Reservoir conditions

Water supply challenges

While winter storms have helped the snowpack and reservoirs, groundwater basins are much slower to recover. Many rural areas are still experiencing water supply challenges, especially communities that rely on groundwater supplies which have been depleted due to prolonged drought.

Water conservation ‘a way of life’

Long-term drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin will also continue to impact the water supply for millions of Californians. The state continues to encourage Californians to make water conservation a way of life as more swings between wet and dry conditions will continue in the future. The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies provide rebates and programs to encourage water conservation.

Given the size of this year’s snowpack with more snow in the forecast, DWR anticipates conducting a May snow survey at Phillips Station. That is tentatively scheduled for May 1.

Opinion: Delta Tunnel Project Won’t Provide Reliable Water Supply California Needs

The California Department of Water Resources is using the winter storms to claim that the proposed Delta Conveyance project would help ensure a more reliable water supply for the State Water Project in light of how climate change will alter seasonal patterns of rain and drought.

In reality, the benefits of the conveyance project are speculative at best.

Farmers Look Forward to Full Water Delivery

As the rain year continues to look promising, rice farmers are happy to expect most if not all of their water allocations will be delivered.

This week the Department of Water Resources announced a 75% water allocation to the irrigation districts served by the State Water Project.