Water crisis still looms despite storms

January 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The Bay Area's recent storms will provide some help in quenching California's thirst for water when the weather heats up later this year, but almost every water expert agrees, all this rain won't get the state out of its current water crisis.

"Rain is not fixing the problems we have in California today," said Timothy Quinn from the Association of California Water Agencies.

While underground water tables will get a boost from all this rain, reservoirs statewide are still low, trying to recover from last year's drought. The Association of California Water Agencies worries people will stop conserving, when, in fact, mandatory and voluntary cut-backs are still in effect.

"It would be short-sighted of those local agencies to get rid of those protections that are based on long term concerns, just because of a temporary change of hydrology," said Quinn.

What really counts towards the state's water supply is snowfall in the Sierra Nevada, which sort of acts like a reservoir. When the snow melts in the spring, the water flows down to the delta to bring drinking and irrigation water to the rest of the thirsty state. This year's first snow survey measured less than 60-percent of normal for the season.

"The snow pack is very, very important. It's everything to your water supply," said Arthur Hinojosa from the CA Department of Water Resources.

Some farmers in the lush Sacramento Valley are well aware of the state's water needs. They're thinking of not planting crops this year to sell their irrigation water on the possibly more lucrative, open market.

As the governor and Democrats disagree over how to solve the state water crisis, some look at this week's rainfall and wish more could be saved and stored.

"It needs to be captured so when we have a drought, that we have enough water available. Right now, we don't have enough water. Right now, we are in a situation where they're raising the prices, where we have problems delivering enough water to the people," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Leaders also have to fix the delta's old, complex network of pumps, pipes and aqueducts that makes water delivery possible. Use is restricted, to save the endangered delta smelt. What good is it having water up north, if it can't flow southward?