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“The lack of frozen water is alarming,” the state’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) tweeted.
The survey was done at Phillips Station, south of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains. California relies on runoff from melting snow for around a third of its drinking water.
Photos show a muddy field with green grass, and mere patches of snow under some trees.
At the beginning of April, snowpack at Phillips Station measured 2.5 inches, according to DWR — 4 per cent of the average for that day.
That’s a significant drop from the end of December, when the site recorded 202 per cent of normal snow levels, DWR says. The agency notes that extremely dry conditions throught the start of the year have decimated the state’s snowpack.
Snow throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains is at just 29 per cent of normal levels.
Currently, 95 per cent of California is under “severe drought” conditions, according to the US government’s drought monitor. The state’s current drought has lasted almost three years, though the entire western United States has been in an extended “megadrought” for two decades.
In response to these dwindling resources, the water providers — especially in the Los Angeles area, which relies heavily on water from the Sierras — have taken drastic measures to conserve water.
Early last month, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power urged residents to conserve water in response to dropping snowpack levels. And just last week, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a regional water management agency, restricted all outdoor watering to one day per week in an effort to drastically reduce water consumption in the region.
The climate crisis is only expected to exacerbate this water shortage, as DWR projects that Sierra Nevada snowpack will decline by up to 65 per cent by the end of the century.
In addition, a 2015 study found that the climate crisis will increase the probability of serious drought conditions hitting California.