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The state Department of Water Resources completed its annual Sierra Nevada snow level surveys today, and the snow there contains 29 percent of the moisture it averages.

In a conference call with reporters today, Lester Snow, the agency’s director, said the low snow pack won’t cause problems this year because last year’s snow melt is stored in reservoirs and groundwater basins.

If next year is similarly dry, it could bring water shortages to San Diego. If the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District cut its water allocations to the San Diego County Water Authority, the local water wholesaler, it could trigger a variety of conservation steps.

When water shortages are declared, the water authority turns first to its agricultural users with contracts that trade discounted water for agreeing to forego their supplies in times of drought.

If that doesn’t suffice, individual cities and water agencies would have their water supplies reduced. Those cities and local agencies would be responsible for determining how to handle the shortfall.

The region hasn’t had mandatory water cuts since the early 1990s, when the Metropolitan Water District cut deliveries to San Diego by 31 percent.

Bill Jacoby, a water authority spokesman, said local agencies handled the cuts differently, with some establishing lawn-watering days; fines for watering when forbidden; and an emphasis on enforcing those tighter regulations. Many localities made conservation mandatory, though the city of San Diego did not, Jacoby said. The city was still able to achieve the water savings it needed.

Our most recent look at the precariousness of our water supply is here.


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