Drenched California Faces Balancing Act To Manage Rainwater, Snowfall
After a week of major storms that have dumped rain and snow on the state, California is finally starting to emerge from a deep, years-long drought.
Ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada mountains are flush with snow, while key reservoirs have filled back up. On Jan. 12, the U.S. Drought Monitor erased all drought in Northern California from the map and dialed back the severity over the southern half of the state.
Storms known as “atmospheric rivers” funneled moisture over California over the past week, bringing days of heavy rain and snow. Rainfall totals reached more than 10 inches in some areas, while snows reached more than eight feet in parts of the Sierra Nevada mountain range (including a 15-foot total at Mammoth Mountain).
The statewide snowpack is 161 percent of normal levels for the date and nearly three-quarters of the way to the average for all of the winter season. That snowpack is a stark contrast to the 6 percent of normal levels at the end of winter in 2015, likely the smallest snowpack in 500 years.
The mountain snowpack is crucial for the state because it supplies roughly 30 percent of its water, topping up reservoirs as it slowly melts during the dry spring and summer.
State water managers, however, now have a challenging balancing act ahead to ensure that there’s enough water for more than 38 million residents and a $40 billion agricultural industry
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