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Climate and Environment

Record Snowpack Doesn't Mean End Of Water Rules

A wide image from above of mountains covered in snow and dotted with pine trees.
The snowpack in the eastern Sierra, where L.A. gets much of its water, has broken the record set in 1969.
(Courtesy of L.A. Department of Water and Power
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The L.A. Department of Water and Power says snowpack in the eastern Sierra is at 296% of normal, surpassing the previous record of 270% of normal for this time of year set in 1969. Local groundwater basins have also seen significant gains.

LADWP says the snowpack in the eastern Sierra adds up to enough water to serve 80% of the city’s needs for a year or more. When we’re not in drought, that region provides about half of the city’s water.

An Infamous History
  • The water from the eastern Sierra is delivered via the L.A. Aqueduct. Its infamous history of being developed through illegal water grabs in the early 20th century has inspired films such as Chinatown and remains a subject of tension between Owens Valley residents and LADWP to this day.

Due to the lack of snowpack in the Sierra during the recent drought, L.A. and many cities across the county had to rely more heavily on water from the overstretched Colorado River.

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As for local groundwater, LADWP estimates they’ve captured more than 100,000 acre-feet of stormwater. For comparison, the entire city of L.A. uses about 500,000 acre-feet of water per year.

No change to L.A.'s water rules … for now

Officials say one record wet year isn’t enough to turn around the long-term drying trend caused by the climate crisis. That’s why the city of L.A. says it will continue to limit outdoor watering to just two days a week, at least for now.

Other water agencies may not do the same. To know if restrictions have changed in your community, check with your local water provider.

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