Water Year 2015: Record-Low Snowpack and Record-High Temperatures
In a report released by Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), Water Year 2015 will go down in history as having the least amount of snowpack and highest temperatures in the Sierras on record, according to data released today by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).
Statistics released by DWR paint a picture of a state mired in a fourth year of drought, with scant precipitation and higher than normal temperatures. Water years run from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.
Highlights of the WY 2015 data include:
· The statewide snowpack on April 1 held only 5% of the average water content for that date in records dating to 1950. The previous low record of 25% of average was set in 1977 during one of California’s most significant droughts and was tied in 2014.
· Of the nine April 1 snowpack values below 50% of average since 1950, three have occurred in the past three years of drought.
· According to the California Climate Tracker, the winter average minimum temperature for the Sierra Nevada region was 32.1 degrees Fahrenheit, the first time the reading was above water’s freezing point in 120 years of record-keeping.
· At the end of the water year, the state’s 154 reservoirs held only 54% of their historic average
·The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project clocked record low deliveries of zero project water to its north-of-Delta and south-of-Delta agricultural contractors and to agricultural contractors in its Friant Division.
· The SWP provided only 20% of its urban and agricultural contractors’ requested amounts.
The press release from DWR also detailed the water conservation efforts undertaken following Gov. Jerry Brown’s April 1 executive order mandating a statewide 25% reduction in urban water use. In the months following that order, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted mandatory urban water use restrictions, assigning reduction tiers to water districts based on past usage. By late summer, statewide urban water consumption was about 30% lower than during the same months in 2013.
DWR also highlighted California’s statewide conservation program – Save Our Water – which is run in partnership by ACWA and DWR. The program ramped up its conservation messaging, as did water agencies and cities throughout the state. Many of these programs encouraged residents to conserve by offering turf and appliance rebates. In August, DWR launched its own rebate program offering up to $2,000 for turf replacement and $100 for households that replace an inefficient toilet (details here).
The release also stated that reports of an El Niño weather pattern this winter are bringing hopes that the impacts of the drought could be lessened. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, there is about a 95% chance of a strong El Niño during the coming winter. It is unclear, however, how such a weather pattern would impact drought conditions and low reservoirs, particularly in northern California.
For more information on current water conditions visit the California Data Exchange Center. Hit the links for the current CDEC information:
NOAA’s El Niño/La Niña Home
For more information on the state’s drought visit Drought.CA.Gov. Water conservation tips may be found at SaveOurWater.com.