Snow surveys show grim picture

mmsa1_7_14The California Department of Water Resources has conducted its first snow survey of the winter. Officials said they found “more bare ground than snow.”

According to a news release from the DWR, “Manual and electronic readings record the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20% of average for this time of year.” DWR Director Mark Cowin said that the State is “fully mobilized” to take every action possible “to ease the effects of dry weather on farms, homes and businesses as we face a possible third consecutive dry year.” He calls on all of us to make water conservation a daily habit.

According to DWR, the snowpack readings now and in 2012 are the driest on record for this time of year. The northern California mountains show 11% of normal for now. The central Sierra shows 21% and the southern Sierra, 30% of normal for this time of year.

Rainfall at the end of 2013 was also low, according to DWR. They report that downtown Los Angeles which has averaged nearly 15 inches of rain since 1906, ended the year with 3.4 inches.

DWR weather watchers point out that it is still early in the season and this winter could still turn out wet. DWR does have a drought management team which reportedly will make sure areas of critical need get water transfers. They have also vowed to monitor water supply impacts in small rural communities whose groundwater sources are stressed by prolonged dry conditions. It’s unclear what the State will do for these areas, which define the Eastern Sierra.

Meanwhile, the Department of Water and Power has begun to measure the snowpack. Their website keeps track of the water content of Mammoth Pass as a Hallmark of the snow year, and DWP provides snow and precipitation measurements in all areas of Inyo and Mono.

Mammoth Pass snowpack water content measures 3.3 inches as of December 19th. That number is well below last year and also below the long-term average. Right now, the measurements sit slightly above the driest snowpack on record in 1976-77.

Snow pillow measurements show Mammoth Pass at 13% of normal to date. Rock Creek, 68%; South Lake, 49%; Big Pine Creek, 25%; and Cottonwood Lakes at 122% of normal to date.

On the precipitation side of things, Long Valley sits at 9% of normal to date. Bishop, 20%; Big Pine, 50%; Independence, 81%; South Haiwee at 15% and Los Angeles at 21% of normal to date.


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15 Responses to Snow surveys show grim picture

  1. JeremiahJoseph January 7, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Yes very Grim 🙁
    Putting Climate Change aside for a bit and lets try and acknowledge another driving force here, I want to point out a big part of our daily lives, that thing called free market capitalism, market perception can not view the our earth as anything but resource exploitation! Our current economies are based upon constant consumption, this cyclical consumption is the life blood of our economic existence, and the very idea of being CONSERVATIVE or truly efficient with the earths finite resources in any way is structurally counter productive to this needed driving force of consuming.. if you don’t believe that? ask yourself why virtually every life supporting system is on decline; ongoing loss of top soil, ever depleting fresh water, atmospheric and climate destabilization, a loss of oxygen producing plankton (critical to marine ecology), ongoing depletion of fish population, the reduction of rain forest and so on and so forth…
    I guess what I am trying to point out is you can’t separate a outcome from which it is orientated from..

  2. TBone January 7, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    What measures are SoCal communities taking to mitigate a water shortage? It seems late enough in the game now that those communities should be actively working on emergency conservation measures.

    • Desert Tortoise January 8, 2014 at 9:01 am #

      Water use per day per person in LA is far lower than the state average, about 125 gallons per person per day. In Mono County the average is over 400 gallons per person per day. Maybe Mono County ought to do something about their own profligate water use.

      LA has ongoing water use restrictions in place (that are not popular at all, but the city enforces them). The days and number of total minutes per day of sprinkler use are restricted. Car washing is restricted. Hosing sidewalks is prohibited, etc…

      However, I have to ask why everyone jumps to the conclusion that it is domestic water use that has to be severely rationed. Depending on the region of California, 80-85% of developed fresh water is used by agriculture. Even in Southern California, fully 85% of the developed fresh water belongs to the Imperial Irrigation District and is used primarily to water the desert to grow things (with the runoff the only thing keeping any water in the Salton Sea).

      A ten percent reduction in water use by agriculture would increase water available to cities by 33%, yet it is always municipal water use that receives all the scrutiny while nothing is ever said about wasteful use of water by farms. Why in a state where water is scarce do we still have trench irrigation of crops instead of drip irrigation, particularly in someplace as hot as the Imperial or San Joaquin Vallies? Why do we grow alfalfa anywhere in the state, and particularly out in the desert where it is a popular crop? Ditto rice? These are water hungry crops grown in an arid state. But wash your car in LA or dare to have a patch of green grass and you are a water criminal of the highest order. It is screwed up if you ask me.

      • Mark January 8, 2014 at 10:11 am #

        agriculture = food and jobs, do you like to eat DT?

        “Water use per day per person in LA is far lower than the state average, about 125 gallons per person per day.”

        I think that is because they are packed into apartments like rats down there. 13 million people using 125 gallons a day add up fast. Any convervation of the 400 gallons used a day by Mono County residence is a literally a drop in the bucket.

        I would suggest everyone in Inyo & Mono County not conserve a drop. All the water we use eventually adds/replentishes the ground water supply. To hell with L.A.

        • Deseert Tortoise January 9, 2014 at 8:39 am #

          I love the uninformed exaggeration that one finds on the internet. The population of Los Angeles, the city, is 3.8 million. The population of the county is just a touch under 10 million, keeping in mind that that includes the 3.8 million living within the city of Los Angeles. Where does this 13 million figure come from? Maybe we don’t want to know.

          I mention the gallons per day per person because we so often hear the tired old canard about LA home owners wasting so much water on lawns and shrubbery. Now when I point out that the city’s water use is actually quite low (especially so compared to Mono County) we hear it is because everyone is “packed into apartments”. So what is it? Water waste on lawns or water thrift due to crowded living?

          According to census data, housing units in multi unit dwellings, which would mean apartments, townhomes and condominiums, is 42% of the housing stock. That means 58% are individual homes.

          Anger is no substituted for knowledge and having your facts straight.

      • JeremiahJoseph January 8, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

        True that Desert! Wasted in the old agriculture ways, there is answers to that (vertical Hydroponics), but people just don’t listen and/or the established powers that contribute to the old ways of agriculture want to keep their bottom line, and they will do what it takes to hang on to their bottom line, even if that means bribing politicians to write new legislation that reinforces the old ways… hence wasted finite resources in the name of monetary gain.
        That’s the world we live in, or at least that’s what I see, and it freaking brings me down..
        So its not just finding a new better way that will work, first you must win the battle that the big money influence has on our politics and institutions, or show them they can profit off of the new ways as well… but if you haven’t noticed the monetary and market system promotes and perpetuates this type of scarcity driven structure.. When in reality we have the capability with the current technological advances to make a difference.

  3. FYI January 7, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    I think southern cal needs to do away with the Green Lawn for now!

  4. Jarred Sorenson January 8, 2014 at 6:54 am #

    Conservation is not enough. Ask the civilizations that were destroyed by drought (Mayans, Anasazi, ancient Greeks, etc.) and they would tell you to move…to Sun Valley, Idaho, for example.

  5. Ken Warner January 8, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    Lots of wise words here. But next year or the year after, we’ll have a near normal snowpack and precipitation and all those wise words will be forgotten because people have short memories and no foresight. Smart people would have been saving water when we had 500 inch winters. But they were too distracted by visualizing all the neat things they were going to buy with all that money. And we haven’t learned anything from history.

    After approximately 1150, North America experienced significant climatic change in the form of a 300-year drought called the Great Drought. This also led to the collapse of the Tiwanaku civilization around Lake Titicaca in present-day Bolivia.[22] The contemporary Mississippian culture also collapsed during this period. Confirming evidence is found in excavations of the western regions of the Mississippi Valley between 1150 and 1350, which show long-lasting patterns of warmer, wetter winters and cooler, drier summers.

  6. ferdinand lopez January 8, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    if the snowpack were normal,youd have to bitch about something else

    • JeremiahJoseph January 8, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

      You mean like complaining about how people complain to much? LOL

  7. Numbers January 8, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    As this drought gets worse it will be interesting to see the fate of the water purveyors. Obviously, customers will be asked/forced to use less. But less water use equals less money coming in. Could be a lot less money. I assume public water providers like mammoth community can’t just raise rates without a cumbersome process, perhaps even subject to voter protest proceedings?

    • Desert Tortoise January 9, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

      Public water utilities number one are required by law to be non profit. Second, since they are public agencies you get to elect their directors and their meetings are subject to all of the Brown Act requirements of a city council or board of supervisors. They frequenly have appointed commitees made up of interested members of the public.

      Get involved, attend meetings, study the issues and learn the truth. Use the required opportunites for public comment to make your opinions known. Encourage others to do the same. That is how representative government should work. Dont let the board have to guess where public opiniion lies, or let them think nobody is looking. Better yet, become familiar ehough that you can earn an appointment to one of the committees.

      Or you can sit and snipe on the internet. It is up to you.

      • Mark January 9, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

        “Public water utilities number one are required by law to be non profit”

        Oh come on DT.

        There’s no actually profit however employees get paid well, Utilities have the best of the best equipment, radios, phone systems, scata system, so operating cost are very expensive. Every water utiliity out there is impire building which keeps operational cost high.

        Then when they ask for customers to conserve they’re not selling as much water. This in turn means less revenue making it tough to keep the operation going due to the diminished cash flow forcing them to raise rates.

        It’s a game and water utilities are good at it. Get your checkbooks out because your rates are going up, non profit or not.

        and this is why I refuse to conserve water, especially when that means any water I conserve flows to L.A. to build that impire.

        • Mark January 9, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

          Empire.. I should have spell check that one. 🙂


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