California water managers greeted the first Sierra Nevada snow pack survey of the year Friday with strong language, using words like “abysmal” and “dismal” to describe the view it offers of the coming water year. State scientists taking manual samples in several South Lake Tahoe locations found the amount of water in snow pack is only about 20 percent of normal, according to the Department of Water Resources.
Water levels in snowpack measured in this year's survey and one from January 2012 are the lowest on record.
Snow pack is critical because, according to state resource managers, it normally provides about one third of the water used in California. Officials from the DWR have said that they expect they can only deliver about 5% of what cities and farms are asking for through the State Water Project.
The survey itself isn’t entirely surprising, following months of little to no rain and snow. And precipitation projections historically have risen through the winter season, so early season water supply and delivery projections tend to be conservative. Still, entering the third straight dry year, state water managers stressed that they’re ready with a response.