Behind California's Historic Water Restrictions: Low Snowpack
Snow in mountains is only 6 percent of normal, worsening drought.
When California Governor Jerry Brown announced unprecedented statewide water restrictions on Wednesday, he did so during a visit to the Sierra Nevada mountains, where snowpack is at the lowest level in recorded history.
Brown stood in a bare brown field that would normally be covered with several feet of snow at this time of year.
While many people think of drought as a prolonged lack of rain, in California the dryness has been driven by a lack of snowpack.
In normal years, California gets 70 percent of its precipitation from snow, says Tom Painter, a snow scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. That snow eventually provides 75 to 80 percent of the state’s usable water, as it melts