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California snowpack "off to an incredible start" for 2023 water year

Karla Nemeth, Director of the Department of Water Allocation, says we need to wait until April to get a clearer picture of California's water year.
California snow
Posted at 7:04 PM, Feb 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-15 18:28:00-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The California Department of Water Resources recently conducted its second snowpack survey of the year, and while things look more promising than in years past, officials are warning that water levels are not back to normal just yet.

"Our snowpack is off to an incredible start, and it's exactly what California needs to really help to break from our ongoing drought," said Sean de Guzman, Manager of the DWR's Snow Surveys and Forecasting Unit.

According to DWR records, California's snowpack levels are currently at 205 percent higher than average around the state.

"California recently experienced the wettest three-week period, followed by the driest three years in the state's recorded history. However, for every day it doesn't rain or snow, we gradually return to drier conditions," said de Guzman, explaining that in an average year, the snowpack is at its highest on April 1, but in recent years that has not been the case.

Karla Nemeth, Director of DWR's Department of Water Allocation, says we need to wait until April to get a clearer picture of California's water year. She also says the amount of water the DWR has allocated to local agencies recently increased, but that number may change again soon.

"We did up the allocation from 5 percent to 30 percent last week. It did not take into consideration the significant snow melt, so what we need to do now is go back to the shop, and all the number-crunching that Sean described will enable us to reevaluate," said Nemeth. "Presumably, we'll have another adjustment to our water supply allocation in late January."

That water allocation also impacts the Kern County Water Agency, which receives that water from the state and contracts it to water utility companies, according to Tammy Johnson, Bakersfield District Manager for CalWater.

"So when the allocation is down, the Kern County Water Agency then has to have other resources to deliver the treated surface water to Cal Water customers," said Johnson.

According to Johnson, those other resources include transporting water into the county by trucks and pumping groundwater. She also says the high snowpack is encouraging, but does not change the urgent need to conserve water.

"While we are working in a positive direction this year, having the wet season, which is spectacular, we still encourage our customers to continue to help us achieve that 15 percent reduction target that we are focused on right now," said Johnson.