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Delta Watch

Don’t let the stormy weather fool you, California is still in a serious drought.

The Department of Water Resources’ April 1 Sierra Snowpack Survey, which serves as a key indicator of California’s water situation, found snow levels at only 32 percent of normal to date. The April survey, taken at a time when the snowpack is normally at its peak, was the third lowest reading on record.

California is coming off its warmest winter on record, aggravating an already serious drought. While the state’s reservoirs serve as the manmade infrastructure of California’s water storage system, the natural storage of the Sierra snowpack normally provides about a third of the water used by cities and farms as it melts into streams and reservoirs in the spring. Unfortunately, with a warm, dry    winter, the Sierra snowpack is heading into the spring at historically low levels.

Amidst one of the worst droughts in California history, a federal court announced more bad news for water users, including the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, which is a litigant in the lawsuit. In a 2-1 ruling, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed much of a 2011 lower court ruling by Judge Oliver Wanger that had overturned unnecessary regulations in the delta smelt biological opinion (BiOp).