Apocalypse Soon: California’s Snowpack Is Gone

Readings show the mountain snowpack that is a crucial water source for the drought-stricken state is 0 percent of normal.
A snow survey station in Phillips, California, on May 1. There are typically 40 inches of snow at the site on that date. (Photo: Max Whittaker/Reuters)
May 30, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Todd Woody is TakePart's editorial director, environment.

This movie San Andreas opened Friday, depicting the destruction of San Francisco and Los Angeles as mega-earthquakes rip apart California. The same day, a real-life catastrophe quietly unfolded high in the Sierra Nevada mountain range that runs parallel to the San Andreas Fault: The drought-stricken state’s snowpack disappeared.

The California Department of Water Resources reported Friday that mountain snowpack across the state was 0 percent of normal for May 29. That means that even before summer begins, there will essentially be no more of the crucial mountain snowmelt that California relies on to replenish the streams, rivers, and reservoirs that supply water to cities and farms.

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Sure, there are still patches of snow here and there around the high Sierras. But the “snow water equivalent”—the volume of water that would be produced by melting a depth of snow—is 0 percent, according to measurements taken at 98 stations by the water resources department.

(California Department of Water Resources)

When the snowpack hit a record low of 6 percent of normal on April 1, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued the first statewide mandatory water restrictions, ordering cities to cut water consumption by 25 percent.

A week ago, some California farmers agreed to voluntarily reduce their water use by 25 percent, a sign of just how desperate the Golden State’s situation has become.

With the snowpack now gone and California entering its fourth year of drought, such cutbacks may be just the beginning.