California’s drought over . . . or so they say

Hoard's Dairyman: 

California’s drought over . . . or so they say

Fri, 04/01/2011

A rainy season that arrived early, stayed long, and was unusually productive prompted California Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday to declare an official end to the Golden State’s three-year drought. Rainfall totals across much of the state are 50 percent or more above average season totals.

But many farmers up and down the state, who suffered mandatory irrigation cutbacks that forced them to take thousands of acres out of production, are taking a “show me the water” stance before they begin any celebration. Even comments by Brown seem to justify that caution: “Drought or no drought, demand for water in California always outstrips supply. Continued conservation is the key,” he said during his announcement.

The California Department of Water Resources has already estimated it will be able to provide 70 percent of requested State Water Project supplies this year, although it is widely expected that amount will increase as adjustments are made for updated snowpack and runoff readings.

The department’s fourth and most recent official snowpack survey found water levels at 165 percent of their normal season average. Last year’s levels were 102 percent of average. Most of the state’s major reservoirs are also over 100 percent of storage average, and some are already making releases in order to ensure they have capacity when spring melts begin.