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Climate and Environment

Snowpack Levels In The Sierras Fall To 38% As California Enters Its Third Consecutive Year Of Drought

An image of a creek running between drifts of snow. Snow-capped mountains and green pine trees are in the background.
Snow melts into a creek that flows into the South Fork American River, approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento.
(Kenneth James
California Department of Water Resources)
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April 1st traditionally marks the final snowpack measure of the season. This year, snowpack levels are at 38% of where they're normally at for this time of year.

That's bad news for the Golden State, which gets almost a third of its water from the Sierra Nevada range, and is in its third consecutive year of drought.

The past three months have been the driest period on record in the Sierras, dating over a hundred years, according to Sean de Guzman, who manages the Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit for the Department of Water Resources.

"Those are the months we usually get the most snowfall," he said. "But not this year."

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De Guzman says snowfall levels peaked in December. "And the small amounts of snowfall that have happened since then, haven't been enough to outpace the amount of snowmelt," he said.

Next, his team will figure out how much of that snowmelt can be captured by our reservoirs and not just soaked up by parched dirt.

Governor Gavin Newsom is encouraging local water districts to cut back. He's calling on state regulators to consider a ban on watering decorative grass at commercial and industrial properties.

What questions do you have about Southern California?

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