At the end of January, California Farm Bureau Federation explained in its weekly newspaper AgAlert that storms during the first three weeks of January brought seasonal rainfall and snowpack levels to average or more, increased reservoir levels and brought cautious optimism to California farmers, who hope to see improved water supplies in the coming year.
After seeing the Sierra Nevada snowpack increase from 70 percent of average on Jan. 1 to 105 percent of average at the start of this week, farmers said they're encouraged—but noted the winter still has a long way to go. Snow levels are important to overall water needs of California, as the snowpack historically provides for roughly 30 percent of the necessary water supplies of the state.
"We've received fair precipitation up until now, so we're hopeful it continues for another two months," said Bill Diedrich, who chairs the board of the Los Banos-based San Luis Water District and grows nut crops, pomegranates and processing tomatoes in Fresno and Madera counties.
At this time, the California Department of Water Resources reported that federal reservoirs such as Shasta - the state's largest reservoir - contain close to average supplies at this point in the season. According to the Department of Water Resources (DWR), Shasta Lake stood at 95 percent of the historical average for the date. Lake Oroville, the principal State Water Project reservoir, was at 60 percent of average storage, and San Luis Reservoir, a joint federal-state project, was at 109 percent of its historical average. DWR said Southern California has received good precipitation so far this year—a contrast to recent dry years—with reservoirs at or above historical averages.
In the San Joaquin Valley, Diedrich noted that improved rainfall and snowpack will also help groundwater supplies. "Every time we have surface water supply it benefits groundwater recharge, because you are not running the pumps. That is the best way to put water in the ground," he said.
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