California officials delay decision on new water restrictions amid low snowpack, worsening drought

By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
February 22, 2018, 2:39:08 PM EST

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The largely dry winter across California is leading to worsening drought conditions and may cause officials to implement water restrictions again in the coming months.

On Tuesday, members of the state Water Resources Control Board held a meeting to discuss a proposal to implement water restrictions across the state but delayed a decision, according to the Associated Press.

This meeting comes just days after the U.S. Drought Monitor released a report showing that nearly half the state has returned to severe drought conditions.

AP Photo - California drought/water restrictions

In this April 8, 2015, file photo, water runs off from a sprinkler in Mount Olympus, a neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Water restrictions were in place across California from 2013 to 2017 as extreme drought gripped the state, but the restrictions were lifted after an abundance of rain and mountain snow erased much of the drought during the winter of 2016-2017.

The proposed restrictions would impact residents and business owners across the state. Some of the restrictions would include prohibitions on watering lawns, washing sidewalks, using a hose without an automatic shut-off nozzle, running an ornamental fountain without a recirculating system and watering outside within 48 hours of a good rain, according to AP.

While water restrictions would help conserve water in times of drought, some worry that if the restrictions were made permanent, they would infringe on long-held water rights.

A final decision on the drought restrictions is now expected by April 17.

ap snow measure

In this Jan. 3, 2018, file photo, Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, from left, accompanied by Grant Davis, director of the department, and Michelle Mead, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, leave the nearly snow barren Phillips Station snow course, after conducting the first snow survey of the season near Echo Summit, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

This winter has been exceptionally dry across California with most areas receiving only a fraction of the precipitation that they did last winter. It has also been drier than some of the years earlier this decade during the height of the extreme drought.

“After a blockbuster snowpack winter for 2016-2017, California is once again in a snow drought,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell said.

Static California Drought

As of Feb. 20, the snowpack across California was only 20 percent of normal. This is significantly lower than last year at this time when the snowpack was 179 percent of normal.

“There are growing worries for [the] water supply picture, especially in California, but even over more of the Southwest,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews said.

snow infographic

There is still time for more snow to build up on the mountains before the water year in California comes to an end on April 1, but that time is quickly running out.

“Snowpack, vital to California’s water supply, has long replenished the state’s reservoirs naturally in advance of the dry summer and fall months,” the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said.

“The April 1 snow survey is critical because these measurements generally represent when snowpack is supposed to be at its peak,” the NRDC added.

The prospects for large, drought-busting storms will remain low through the rest of the water year with AccuWeather meteorologists projecting a dry and warm spring across the region.

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Even though drought restrictions are not yet in place, people across California can report water waste by going to

This website, developed by the state, allows people to anonymously report water waste that they see, complementing the reports received by local water agencies.

“Every drop of water saved and every suspected leak fixed will help secure our water supply,” the website says.

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