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Californians are bracing for a cruel April Fool’s Day on Tuesday. Many will wake up to much-needed rain but also to dismal news from state water officials.
As the rainy season comes to a close, the state is expected to announce April 1 that the snowpack that feeds water reservoirs is at about 30 percent of normal, setting the stage for continued severe drought conditions throughout the state.
California is in its third year of drought, and supplies of state water to some farmers have been cut to zero. “It’s not only severe but extensive,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit water-policy research group in Oakland that says climate change is part of the cause.
“One hundred percent of the state is in some state of drought. Three-quarters is in extreme or extraordinary drought … There’s no relief in sight,” he added.
Snowpack measurement on April 1 is considered a key measure of drought conditions, and officials are expected to announce exact levels at about noon Pacific time on Tuesday. “By any measure, our snowpack is low,” Gleick said. “Reservoir levels are also very low. It’s the third year of low precipitation, and they’re hovering at half of normal.”
Environmental groups said the severity of the California drought begs for more intensive water conservation efforts statewide. Approximately 80 percent of the state’s water is used to irrigate about 8 million acres of farm land. “Over half the acres still use old, outdated gravity irrigation — flood and furrow techniques,” rather than drip irrigation, which minimizes water waste, said Steve Fleischli, director of the water program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “While we can’t make it rain or even snow, we can prepare for drier days ahead.”
The NRDC urges more inducements to motivate urban residents and farmers to conserve, from state aid to finance more efficient irrigation systems to financial incentives for residents who convert their lawns to native landscaping. Long Beach, for example, offers $3 per square foot for lawn conversions. “All these solutions add up to big water savings,” Fleischli said