Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

On Wednesday, Feb. 5, the limited release from Terminus Dam at Lake Kaweah was being diverted to St. John’s users. The Kaweah River channel below the dam, at left in the photo, is nearly dry.

Snowpack nearly nonexistent

By: 
John Elliott

Freshly falling snow won’t do much to change the fact that the February 1 survey recorded the lowest water content in the history of the DWR’s (California Department of Water Resources) 54 years of record-keeping.  

Prior to the recent survey, the lowest snowpack water content readings for February 1 were 21 percent in 1991 and 1963, and 22 percent in 1976. Two years ago the numbers averaged 35 percent – 2012 being the first of three consecutive dry years in the current drought.

In the February 1, 2014, electronic readings, the water content in the northern Sierra is six percent of normal for the date and four percent of the April 1 average. Further down the Sierra, there is a little more snow and water content where the averages are 14 percent of February 1 and eight percent of the April 1 average.

Not only was 2013 the driest calendar year on record, according to records that date back to 1895, but the month of January 2014 may be the driest ever January. State climatologist Michael Anderson also noted that statewide, only 1.53 inches of rain was recorded from October to December, the lowest aggregate total since 1895; the aggregate average for the period is 7.87.

Because of the three consecutive dry seasons, the big water storage reservoirs up north are only about one-third to one-half full. Shasta Lake north of Redding, California’s and the federal Central Valley Project’s (CVP) largest reservoir, is at 36 percent of its 4.5 million acre feet; 53 percent of its average for this time of year.

Tulare County farmers have already been told to expect zero water allocations from the CVP, and without sufficient rainfall, this could create a downward spiral that starts with loss of acres farmed, loss of jobs, and loss of tax revenue, culminating in a devastating blow to the ag-based economy.

State Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) issued a statement relative to the zero allocation from the CVP:

“Now is the time for action and all available water must be used effectively. Ensuring farmers have enough water to grow food is critical. The economics of this drought will be felt in the Valley, as well as California, and in numerous sectors of the economy.”

In Sacramento, CAL FIRE announced it has hired 125 additional firefighters to address the increased fire danger in the drought. California Department of Fish and Wildlife is restricting fishing in low flow rivers, and the California Department of Health is already assisting communities in coping with drinking water shortages. 

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