California snowpack drops to 38% of average after record dry conditions

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April 4 (Reuters) - The California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) said statewide snowpack was just 38% of average for this time of year, following three straight months of record dry conditions.

CDWR measures the snowpack to estimate how much water will reach the state's reservoirs when the snow melts.

At the Phillips station in the Sierra Nevada mountains, CDWR recorded 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) of snow on April 1, only 4% of the average for that location.

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CDWR said snowpack at Phillips has plummeted from 202% of normal on Dec. 30, noting snow there would usually be about five-feet (1.5-meters) deep at this time of year.

April 1 is typically when the snowpack is at its highest, CDWR said, but noted the statewide snowpack likely peaked in early-March this year and the Northern Sierra snowpack peaked in mid-January.

"The conditions we are seeing today speak to how severe our drought remains," CDWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a statement.

"Water conservation will remain our best tool in the face of this ongoing drought and the statewide impacts of a warming climate."

After snow storms in December, CDWR returned its Hyatt hydropower plant at Oroville Dam in Butte County to service after shutting it in August, 2021 when its lake levels fell to historic lows.

But that was before the state experienced record dry conditions from January-March.

CDWR officials were not immediately available for comment on the current status of Hyatt.

The California Independent System Operator (ISO), which operates the power grid for most of the state, said in a report on Sunday that 323 megawatts (MW) of the 933-MW Hyatt-Thermalito power plant were unavailable for service.

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Reporting by Scott DiSavino, editing by Ed Osmond

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