Can CA bounce back from water emergency?
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- California continues to experience a water emergency. State officials conducted a survey in the High Sierra on Monday to update the depth and water content of the snowpack. They say California is 40 percent short of the water needed by next month to fill the state's reservoirs. The governor declared a drought emergency on Friday, urging people to cut back on water use.
California has had three years of below-average rain and snowfall.
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Even though we're only about 2 inches below normal rainfall for this time of year, local storms only provide a portion of our water. The majority of our water depends on snowmelt from the Sierras in Northern California.
ABC7 Meteorologist Dallas Raines joined hydrologists from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power as they traveled on the windy 395 Highway to the eastern range. The team was sent to measure the depth and water content of the snow. By doing so, experts can predict how much water California will get this year.
Snow in the Sierras melts and makes its way into the Los Angeles Basin, providing roughly 2/3 of our water. Some water flows directly into the L.A. Aqueduct, while some water feeds reservoirs in Northern California, which we purchase from the state.
But if we don't get snow in the winter, we're in trouble. January was dry. Hopefully the new readings for February are better.
The snowpack is at 80 percent of normal, which is up from 67 percent in January. While that is good news, we still need a lot of snowstorms in March to reach 100 percent. Even if we do meet that miracle, local water agencies say we face other challenges.
"This particular water shortage isn't only weather-driven. We also have what people term a 'regulatory drought' at this point," said David Nahai, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
The state could cut back water allocation to local agencies by 85 percent this year. Since we've had so many dry years, our biggest state reservoirs are only about half full. The water level in the Sacramento Delta is also low. Pumping water out at the delta will endanger the smelt fish.
"Even with an average March, or an above-average March, because of the mandatory regulatory cutbacks in the Sacramento Delta, we will continue to face a worrisome weather picture," said Nahai.
L.A. city residents may only be able to water their lawns on Mondays and Thursdays as soon as April 1. The DWP is also proposing higher water rates for users who don't cut back.
There are things you can do to help the water crisis. You could water your lawn twice a week, stop hosing down your driveway, take your car to a carwash, take shorter showers and fix those leaks. After all, leaks aren't just a waste of water: they are a waste of money.
Conserving water can also make you money. The DWP is offering up to $350 rebates when you buy a high-efficiency washing machine and $100 for high-efficiency toilets.
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