January, February driest in history for Northern Sierra

January, February driest in history for Northern Sierra
February 28, 2013 7:07:57 PM PST
January and February will go down in the record books as the driest in history in the Northern Sierra with only 2.2 inches of precipitation and that will impact our summer water supply. ABC7 News looks into what it will mean for the Bay Area.

The Northern Sierra snowpack provides a third of California's water supply. As of this survey, the snowpack is at 66 percent of average. That's a big drop from early January when it stood at 134 percent of normal, thanks to storms late last year. The new survey means potentially less water for the Bay Area this summer.

"Santa Clara County gets about 55 percent of our water every year from snowpack or from the Sierra Nevada, and 40 percent of that flows through the Delta," said Marty Grimes from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Less runoff from snow melt will mean smaller allocations by state and federal agencies for cities and for agriculture, and more reliance on reservoirs such as Lexington or Almaden Lake, but it depends what happens in March.

"There's not a miracle March in the picture for the first 15 days of the month," said Jan Null, a Certified Consulting Meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services.

Null says he can't project pacific storm tracks beyond mid-month. Right now, the storms are going north and then delivering the precipitation to the Rockies and the plains.

"The storms in these troughs out here, but they're riding over here and dropping down into this area. The storm track is going right around us, and that's what gives us dry weather," explained Null.

Anderson Reservoir is at less than 50 percent capacity, but that doesn't mean Santa Clara Valley is facing a drought. Half of its supply for 1.8 million customers comes from ground water. It also has an underground storage facility near Bakersfield. State officials say two below average years are manageable, but it comes as a concern if it stretches into three or four. And that will be up to Mother Nature in March.

"The odds are probably better that we will stay dry than we will get wet, but it's certainly not zero. It's probably in the slightly less than 50 percent category," said Null.


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