Dry spell raises fears of drought's return in California

It's been almost a year since Los Angeles residents felt any real rain, and precious little snow is in the Sierras, but water managers say it's too early for fears that California is sliding back into drought as abruptly as the state fell out of it.

Water officials carried out the first of their regular ritual winter snow measurements before news cameras on Wednesday.

Plunging rods into snowpacks to measure the snow depth, water managers use the event to acquaint Californians with the state of the water supply. 

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, right, plunges the snow survey tube into the snow pack, as DWR's Wes McCandless looks on during the snow survey at Phillips Station near Echo Summit, Calif (stock image)

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, right, plunges the snow survey tube into the snow pack, as DWR's Wes McCandless looks on during the snow survey at Phillips Station near Echo Summit, Calif (stock image)

California's water managers are measuring as little as 3 percent of normal snowpack in areas of the Sierra Nevada mountains as they conduct the first manual surveys of the state's crucial winter snowfall. 

Water managers took the measurements Wednesday in a grassy Sierra meadow that was almost bare of snow.

Up to 60 percent of California's water supply starts out as snow in the Sierras. Snowpack so far this year is a fourth of normal across the region.

Department of Water Resources director Grant Davis says state reservoirs still have good supplies from a rainy winter last year. Davis notes the state still has ample time left for big snowstorms.

Davis says there is still a lot of winter left to make up the precipitation.

It's a crucial question in a semi-arid state with the U.S.'s biggest state economy, agricultural industry and population. In a normal year, nearly two-thirds of Californians' water supply starts as snow in the Sierras.

Southern California wildfires that grew to the biggest in state history in December - normally the rainy season in California - already have made clear the

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