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Dry year, not politics, behind 15-percent water allocation

 •  by Lois Henry
Sean de Guzman, left, chief of California Department of Water Resources (DWR), Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section, and Andy Reising, water resource engineer, DWR Snow Survey Section and Water Supply Forecast Section, conduct the final snow survey of the 2020 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The survey was held approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo taken April 30, 2020. Credit: Kelly M. Grow / DWR

Water may be highly political but dry is dry.

And California is exceedingly dry this year, Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth told SJV Water in explaining the state’s low 15-percent allocation for farms and cities that rely on water from the State Water Project.

Given the results of Thursday’s final snow survey in northern California, the state will most likely stick with that 15 percent allocation, Nemeth said.

Thursday’s physical survey, combined with data from 130 snow sensors across the Sierra Nevada, found the statewide snowpack’s water content was just 37 percent of the historic average for May.

Water content is what’s used to project runoff.

And runoff is the key factor used to determine state water allocations.

“Runoff is looking like it did in 2014 and 2015,” Nemeth said, evoking the specter of the worst drought in California’s history.

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