Early March storms have provided the state a reprieve from what would otherwise be an extremely dry winter. Five to eight feet of new snow was added to the Sierras! Within a few hours the storms brought much of California more rain than was received in the entire month of February.
Even with the much-needed boost to the snowpack, California was at just 39 percent of average according to the March 5th Department of Water Resources snowpack survey. While helpful, it is far short of the “March Miracle” that is needed to bring the state out of the current lackluster water year. Agricultural and urban water users count on the snowpack for about a third of the state’s water supply as it melts in the spring and summer, and this year there isn’t much snow.
While California emerged last year from an historic five-year drought, after record rain and snowfall, we are once again entering a dry period. The increasing variability of winter weather patterns underscores the need to improve and strengthen our core water storage and delivery infrastructure.
As it turns out, the full benefit of the early March storms is also being tempered by ongoing pumping restrictions in the Delta. Despite significant capacity in the San Luis Reservoir, the high river flows during the recent storms are not being captured in storage south of the Delta. Water users continue to lose out on these golden opportunities because California has continually failed to address its flawed water delivery system.
Policymakers should again take note. We need a water storage and delivery system that allows the state, despite the variability, to take full advantage of the precipitation and snowpack we receive each year. Until that happens, fish, residents, farmers and businesses will all continue to be short changed.