Good News From Snow Survey, but Water Questions Loom

Gov. Gavin Newsom at the California Department of Water Resources April Snow Surveys.

Amid questions about the scope of the Spring run-off and the future of the new California Water Plan Update 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom participated in the California Department of Water Resources’ upbeat April Snow Survey.

Although the “snow shoes required” warning for dignitaries attending the state’s April snow survey was good news, questions about the scope of the Spring run-off and the future of new California Water Plan Update 2023 raised longer-term concerns.

“You can take a deep breath this year, but don’t quadruple the amount of time in your shower,” Gov. Gavin Newsom warned. “Consider that this time next year, we may be at a different place.”

The April 1 survey recorded 64 inches of snow depth, which is 113 percent of average. The April measurement is critical for water managers as it’s considered the peak snowpack for the season and marks the transition to spring snowmelt into the state’s rivers and reservoirs.

The California Department of Water Resources readings from 130 stations placed throughout the state indicate that the statewide snowpack was 110 percent of the April 1 average, a significant improvement from just 28 percent of average on January 1.

There are, however, challenges ahead as the spring runoff begins. The dry start to the year, soot and ash from burn scars that accelerates snowmelt and other factors may result in below average spring runoff, which can impact water availability, state officials warned.

The State Water Project recently increased its forecasted allocation of water supplies for the year to 30 percent, up from an initial 10 percent, due to the storms in February and March. However, uncertainty about the spring runoff and ongoing pumping restrictions to protect threatened and endangered species in the Delta has impacted that allocation forecast.

The need for conservation and water management remains.

“The wild swings from dry to wet that make up today’s water years make it important to maintain conservation while managing the runoff we do receive,” Dr. Michael Anderson, a DWR Climatologist, said during the snow survey.

During the snow survey, Gov. Newsom unveiled the final version of the California Water Plan Update 2023. The Water Plan Update provides a roadmap for water management and infrastructure for what it calls “A Water Resilient Future.” It serves as a strategic blueprint for managing and developing the state’s water resources.

DWR is hosting a two-hour webinar on April 29 from 10 a.m. – noon to highlight the key points of California Water Plan Update 2023.

Why Should Landscape Professionals Care?

The plan supports efforts by the State Water Resources Control Board to establish water efficiency goals for urban retail water suppliers in California. Urban retail water suppliers, in turn, are encouraged to use a wide variety of tactics to equip their customers with information and resources to foster wise water use, indoors and outdoors. Examples include education and outreach, leak detection and incentives to plant “climate ready” landscapes.

The plan faces an uncertain future. Gov. Newsom maintains that the need is clear, telling snow survey attendees that “The water system in California was designed for a world that no longer exists.”

The state’s influential Legislative Analyst’s Office has said the earlier versions of the plan went too far, too fast and economically threatened ratepayers.

California’s politically powerful environmentalists, meanwhile, that the plan does not go far enough to prepare the state for a reduced-water future.


CLCA In Action

The California Landscape Contractors Association and its Resource Management Committee have been actively involved in efforts by state and local governments to prepare California for a water resilient future.
Through a partnership with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, CLCA is training green industry professionals and governmental officials on effective water management and California’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance.
The ordinance is currently under revision, and the association submitted recommendations for improvements.
The first pertained to the mandatory creation of a plant legend with photographs and identifying plants by their botanical name, common name or cultivar.
In its comments, CLCA said “This seems onerous. As noted by multiple participants in the public comment hearing, this is a very time-consuming endeavor with limited usefulness, particularly for landscape sites with large varieties of plant material. While we appreciate the intent in wanting such a legend, it is a sizeable demand that does nothing to simplify the model ordinance.”
The proposal was removed from the draft.
The second, pertaining to submittal of the Water Efficient Landscape Worksheet and the differing instructions as to whom to send it to wasn’t addressed directly. State officials did add some clarifying language about designation of responsibility.
The final comment CLCA made pertained to requesting that the local water purveyor be designated as the official repository of the Certificate of Completion Package. Unfortunately, no change was made in the latest draft.