State finds smaller Sierra snowpack

January 29, 2009 6:59:47 PM PST
The latest snow survey in the Sierra has the Governor warning that California is headed toward one of the worst water crisis in its history.

As pretty as the Sierra might look in the winter, the story told by this snow is chilling -- and not in a wintery sense.

"I am not encouraged by this year," said Frank Gerhke from the California Department of Water Resources.

Gehrke is a legend.

Every month of every winter since 1987, Gerhke has followed the same trail and made the same holes in the same spots, in a place called Phillips Station along Highway 50. He measures snow depth and even more important, water content.

The numbers this year so far are not good.

"We measured 34.5 inches of depth, 13.1 inches of water content," said Gerhke.

After water resources took those numbers and combined them with more from other locations, it made a sobering announcement.

The state snowpack is just 61 percent of normal, which might sound manageable. But it follows two years of drought, which means, there is a cumulative effect.

"That would be three droughts in a row," said Gerhke.

"How many can we stand?" asked ABC7's Wayne Freedman.

"What choice do we have? I mean really, what are we going to do?" said Gerhke.

Which means that without a March miracle, Californians can look forward their first prolonged drought since 1992 and they can expect water rationing. As to where, how much and how severe -- that answer is in the clouds, when they appear.

"It's feast or famine. If you have a wet spring, it's usually because you've had a wet winter," said Gerhke.


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