Despite rain storms, state still thirsty

January 27, 2010 8:46:05 PM PST
While the storms of the past 10 days did help, California is still a long way from an end to the state's drought. Regardless, even when that happens, the state will have other water challenges.

Water experts agree the string of recent storms is helping California slowly climb back from the three-year drought, but the head of Water Resources told the state's Agricultural Board on Wednesday several days of wet weather cannot make up for three dry years.

Lester Snow, from the California Department of Water Resources, explained the state was at "114, 115 percent of normal. But for the year, if this is the last that we got, that's only 64 percent. So we're still in the hole."

At this point though, not enough storms is not the problem for the lower half of California.

Even if the state got all the water it needed to catch up, there is still the problem of getting it to Central and Southern California.

A federal order to save endangered fish is still severely restricting how much water can be pumped from the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Twenty-five million Californians depend on the delta for drinking water -- $19 million in Southern California alone.

"We're not 1, 2, 3 or a dozen storms away from solving all of our problems. Our problems will be solved once the problems in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta are finally addressed," said Bob Muir from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Central Valley farmers are frustrated too.

One local water district estimates 40,000 jobs were lost there last year because with water so scarce, fewer farmers decided to plant their crops.

"We're going to have to do something because we cannot survive this way. My neighbors are dying, they're tearing out trees. They're just going under," said Marvin Meyers, an almond farmer.

The National Academy of Sciences is currently reviewing the validity of the research behind the imperiled fish, which could later influence changes in how much water flows out of the delta.