January of 2012 and the California snow pack is at a meager 19 percent of average for this time of year! If the snow pack persists at this level until April, the total amount of precipitation from snow will be 7 percent of a "normal" year. A drought in the making? We don't know yet, but it seems sure that our snow melt water supply will be very much behind the abundance of last year and perhaps will be drastically below normal.
The water supply prospect for 2012? Thankfully, this is likely to be adequate. The snow pack of last year was 200 percent of this year's present snow pack and much of the resulting water supply was captured in the state's reservoirs.
For example, Lake Oroville in Butte County, the California State Water Project's principal storage reservoir is currently at 115 percent of average. That level is 72 percent of Lake Oroville's total capacity. Lake Shasta, the federal Central Valley Project's largest reservoir is at 108 percent of average for this time of year. San Luis Reservoir is at 139 percent of average capacity.
Why is this important? Well, the mountain snowpack that feeds these reservoirs and various streams and aquifers provides approximately one-third of California's total water supply. With nearly one-third of California's water supply needs for 2012 already in storage, there is still a good chance that our short-term water needs will be covered. But, with or without mountain snow we will need local rainfall and mountain rainfall ... and lots of it.
Water storage capacity ... this year seems to be the year when the value of our reservoirs will be obvious to everyone. Survival of California's economy could be compromised without this storage capacity. Growth of the state's economy will be impeded without more of it.
Water use efficiency ... this year seems to be just another year when every farmer and rancher must make the best use of his water supply. PD
—The Dawson Company's Heartbeat of Agricultural Technology newsletter, Vol. 5 No. 1, January 2012