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California Snow Not Enough To Overcome Drought

California’s mountain snowpack was measured at 80 per cent of normal March 2 despite recent storms, far from enough to ease a prolonged drought that is forcing water rationing in cities and sharp cutbacks in irrigation supplies to farmers, state water officials said.

“Although recent storms have added to the snowpack, California remains in a serious drought,” said Lester Snow, director of the state’s Department of Water Resources.

“This year’s precipitation levels are still below average. On the heels of two critically dry years it is unlikely we will make up the deficit and be able to refill our reservoirs before winter’s end. It’s very important that Californians continue to save water at home and in their businesses,” Snow said.Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a statewide drought emergency, urging California cities to impose mandatory conservation measures to cut urban consumption by 20 per cent.

Schwarzenegger said he fears the state may face punishing droughts for several more years. The current drought is shaping up to be the worst ever in California.

California’s farms, which have been especially hard hit by the dry spell, produce more than half the fruit, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States.

California water officials announced early this year that prolonged drought was forcing them to cut Sierra-fed supplies pumped to distant cities and irrigation districts to just 15 per cent of usual allotments.

That move has led many California cities, including Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest, to plan for rationing, including price-enforced household conservation and tough new lawn-watering restrictions.

Separately, federal officials have warned that California’s main source of irrigation water, the Central Valley Project, would probably be shut off entirely this year to most of the thousands of farmers who depend on it.

As many as 95,000 agricultural jobs and up to $3 billion in earnings are expected to be lost in 2009, devastating rural communities throughout California, the nation’s No. 1 farm state.

State hydrologists predict that the water season would have to end at 120 to 130 per cent of normal in order to adequately replenish dwindling reservoirs. The chance of above-normal precipitation becomes less likely as the water season advances.

Most of the state’s rain and snow usually falls in the winter.

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