The state Department of Water Resources today announced its March reading of the snow water content is 80 percent normal for this date.
Surveys taken today at four locations near Lake Tahoe were combined with electronic readings. The water content of the snow in the Northern Sierra is 84 percent of normal, 77 percent of normal in the Central Sierra and 83 percent in the Southern Sierra, the Department of Water Resources said.
Last year at this time, the snowpack was 114 percent of normal but the driest spring on record followed resulting in a second consecutive dry water year.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a drought state of emergency Thursday. The Governor called on the Department of Water Resources and other state agencies to provide assistance to people and communities impacted by the drought.
Bay Area water agencies are preparing to enact mandatory water conservation and rationing. The Department of Water Resources said storage in the state's major reservoirs is low.
Lake Oroville, the principal storage reservoir for the State Water Project, is at 39 percent capacity, and 55 percent of average storage for this time of year. The lake provides water to 25 million residents and 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland.
Storage at Lake Shasta, the largest reservoir in California, is at 44 percent of capacity and 60 percent of average for this time of year, Department of Water Resources spokesman Ted Thomas said.
Thomas said chances are slim the reservoirs will reach 100 percent of normal capacity before the rainy season ends.
"Precipitation would have to be 120-130 percent of normal because there's plenty of room in the reservoirs," Thomas said.
"Although recent storms have added to the snowpack, California remains in a serious drought," DWR Director Lester Snow said.
"This year's precipitation levels are still below average. On the heels of two critically dry years, it is unlikely we will make up the deficit and be able to refill our reservoirs before winter's end. It is very important that Californians continue to save water at home and in their businesses," Snow said.
The Department of Water Resources' early estimate is that it will only be able to deliver 15 percent of requested State Water Project water this year to the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and Southern California because of dry conditions and regulatory agency restrictions on Delta water exports Limited water will be delivered to farms and urban areas, the DWR said.
Determining the snow water content also determines the coming year's water supply. The measurements help hydrologists prepare water supply forecasts for hydroelectric power companies and the recreation industry, the DWR said.
The snow water content will be measured again in April and May.