California is experiencing one of the driest starts to spring in decades, data showed Friday, and absent a heavy dose of April and May showers the state’s drought will deepen and that could lead to stricter rules on water use and another devastating wildfire season.
New readings showed the water in California’s mountain snowpack sat at 38% of average. That’s the lowest mark since the end of the last drought in 2015; only twice since 1988 has the level been lower.
State officials highlighted the severity of the dismal water numbers as they stood at a snow measuring station south of Lake Tahoe, where the landscape included more grass than snow. At the deepest point measured there, there was just 2.5 inches of snow.
“You need no more evidence than standing here on this very dry landscape to understand some of the challenges we’re facing here in California,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources. “All Californians need to do their part.”
Nearly all of California and much of the U.S. West is in severe to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Last July, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked people to cut their water use by 15% compared to 2020 levels, but so far consumption is down just 6%. State reservoirs are filled far below normal levels.