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Sierra Snowpack at 76% of Normal

April 04, 2002|ERIC BAILEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There is bad news and good news flowing from the rugged, snow-capped peaks of the eastern Sierra, the most important source of water for 3.8 million customers in Los Angeles.

With relatively light snowfall during the past winter, runoff is expected to be just 76% of normal, according to experts at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Despite the subpar flow, DWP officials say there will be adequate water supplies to meet customer demands in the coming year. But they're urging prudence while opening the tap.

"We had two months of unseasonably dry, warm weather this past winter that sent the snowpack to below-normal levels," said Gerald A. Gewe, the department's assistant general manager for water. He hopes Angelenos will "continue to use water wisely" by conserving whenever possible.

That means saving water in simple ways, like turning off faucets when shaving or brushing teeth and making sure landscape water is going to plants, not running into the gutter.

In addition, installation of low-flush toilets can dramatically cut water use. Over the last decade, DWP has invested more than $100 million on conservation programs, including financial incentives for installing ultra low-flush toilets and water-efficient washing machines.

Conserving water not only saves money but can also help the environment. A big part of every gallon eventually reaches a sewer or drainage culvert, cascading onward to the sea--and carrying along fertilizers, pesticides and oil picked up along the way.

Half the city's water comes from eastern Sierra runoff, which flows into the Owens Valley and then cascades south via the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The rest is a mix of local ground water and deliveries from the Colorado River and Northern California.

Each winter, DWP hydrographic crews cull the data needed for forecasting runoff. They measure the snow's depth in various spots, calculate the water content, then predict how much water Los Angeles can expect.

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