Lack of water a big problem for California
California needs water. It's in a drought, which is an especially long period of time of dry weather with little rain or snow.
And now, California has received a double dose of bad drought news.
Officials say the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is far below normal. And residents aren't coming close to meeting Gov. Jerry Brown's call for a 20 percent cut in water use.
Snow supplies about a third of the state's water. A higher winter snowpack translates to more water in California reservoirs. When that happens, there is enough water to meet the demand in summer and fall. A recent Sierra snowfall pleased skiers and snowboarders. But it wasn't nearly enough to offset weeks of dry weather.
The latest survey makes it likely California's drought will run through a fourth year. Brown declared a drought emergency on Jan. 17, 2014. His office continues to underline the need for water conservation.
Frank Gehrke is the chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program. He said there were 6.7 inches of snow on the ground at the survey spot. That is near Echo Summit. The summit is about 90 miles east of Sacramento. The city is the state capital.
"It's very meager. It is clearly flirting with being the lowest on record," he said.
The survey found a snowpack water equivalent of just 0.9 inches. The last snow survey was taken on Jan. 29. There was a water equivalent of 2.3 inches in the same spot.
Officials only can only hope for a "Miracle March." The last was in 1991. That month, there was significantly more precipitation than normal. The state's traditional wet season will end on April 1. Now, it appears the total amount of precipitation will be alarmingly low.
"There is no reason to think we will have such a good March again this year," Gehrke said.
Meanwhile, a report showed state water conservation slipping from December. That month, Californians cut water use by 22 percent. Urban water use, in areas where many people live, in January, declined by only 9 percent. That is compared to the same month in 2013. The figures are according to the State Water Resources Control Board.
January was unseasonably dry. It brought no measurable rainfall in downtown San Francisco. That was the first time in history the city got no rain. Overall water use stayed flat compared to the rainy December.
The water board report showed conservation varied widely across the state. Communities in the South Coast area cut its water use by 9 percent. The San Francisco Bay Area was down by just 4 percent.
The monthly data helps officials monitor the effectiveness of the state's emergency conservation regulations. Those include a ban on washing cars using hoses that do not have a shut-off valve and restrictions on watering lawns.
Critical thinking challenge: What was the "miracle" of March 1991?