California communities face a strong possibility of water shortages and even mandatory rationing this summer because of record dry weather in March and April, a fast-shrinking snowpack and below-normal reservoir levels, state officials said Thursday.
The bleak news, contained in California's final Sierra snowpack report of the snow season, means a second consecutive year of water anxieties in a state heavily dependent on water from the melting snow in the Sierra Nevada.
"I have not seen a more serious water situation in my career, and I've been doing this 30 years," said Timothy Quinn, executive director of the Assn. of California Water Agencies. An outmoded delivery system and court rulings that protect endangered fish are also straining the system, he said.
"This is a harbinger of relatively tough times, not just for this year but for a set of years," Quinn said.
He and others urged Californians to rein in water use.
"We need to recognize that we're in a water shortage and begin to act accordingly," state Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman told reporters at a Sacramento news conference.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement urging the Legislature to pass comprehensive water reforms, warning that many communities face shortages and possible rationing.
After a record-dry 2006-07 snow year, water managers had hoped this year would bring ample snow and rainfall to fill reservoirs and ease worries about water shortages. Those concerns have been exacerbated by a long drought in the Colorado River Basin and a federal court ruling curbing water deliveries from Northern California.