Signs indicate dry year
Central Valley Project contractors to get 30 percent of water
By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO -- An arid February may have sealed California's fate as prospects for a dry 2012 became ever clearer.
Periodic parades of storm clouds teased the Golden State but yielded precious few raindrops, as most areas in the Central Valley -- and even some near the coast -- failed to register even an inch of precipitation for the month.
Redding, for instance, got 0.93 inches of rain -- hardly a down payment on the 5.33 inches it normally receives for the month. Even wet Eureka only wrung out 1.41 inches in February; its average for the month is 5.43 inches.
The chances of making up the considerable moisture needed for a normal rain year are now dim. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center envisions much of California to be drier than normal in March, and second-year La Niña conditions tend to make for dry springs, National Weather Service warning coordinator Kathy Hoxsie has said.
"Unfortunately we're kind of mired in a pattern that hasn't changed too much and probably won't change much," said Tom Dang, a meteorologist for the weather service here. "None of these systems are really strong enough to put a dent in our deficit, but at this point any precipitation will help."
The lack of water is having an impact on crop development. According to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service:
* Some growers had to replant wheat in poor fields, and other fields were destroyed so that other crops could be planted if and when more rain comes.
* Unseasonably high temperatures started the bloom for early plums, cherries, apricots, some peaches and nectarines.
* Nut growers were still irrigating -- a rarity for this time of year. As planting and pruning in walnut and pistachio orchards proceeded, almonds were nearing full bloom.
The lack of rainfall and a meager snowpack -- it was only 30 percent of normal statewide as of Feb. 28 -- prompted state and federal water authorities to announce last week they were reducing planned deliveries. The state Department of Water Resources said contractors would only get half the water they requested, a 10 percent drop from last month's estimates.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that Central Valley Project water contractors on the westside of the San Joaquin Valley would only be allotted 30 percent of their normal water deliveries while municipal and industrial contractors would get 75 percent.
Agency officials told the Associated Press that more water could be delivered if more rain comes.
Here are the February and seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of Feb. 28:
Redding: Month to date 0.92 inches (normal 5.33 inches); season to date 13.07 inches (normal 25.05 inches)
Eureka: Month to date 1.41 inches (normal 5.43 inches); season to date 20.04 inches (normal 28.98 inches)
Sacramento: Month to date 0.54 inches (normal 3.35 inches); season to date 5.32 inches (normal 13.61 inches)
Modesto: Month to date 0.52 inches (normal 2.3 inches); season to date 3.34 inches (normal 9.27 inches)
Salinas: Month to date 0.53 inches (normal 2.41 inches); season to date 5.44 inches (normal 9.12 inches)
Fresno: Month to date 0.48 inches (normal 1.96 inches); season to date 3.43 inches (normal 7.81 inches)