'It's Gone' — Snowpack Crucial for West's Water Melts Early

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The snowpack that is crucial for the western U.S. supplies of water for farming, drinking and recreation has melted early, spelling further drought problems for California.

"Across most of the West, snowpack isn't just low – it's gone," Hydrologist David Garen of the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) said. "With some exceptions, this year's snowmelt streamflow has already occurred."

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After months of unusually warm temperatures, the snowpack at many off the USDA's stations in much of the western U.S. is at or near the lowest on record, Garen said in a statement from the USDA.

"We still have some snowpack in northern Colorado, western Montana and southern Wyoming," said Garen. "In addition, snowmelt from Canada will flow into the Columbia River."

California is struggling with a four-year drought that has forced Gov. Jerry Brown to impose historic restrictions on water use. The state's water regulators on Tuesday leveled sweeping restrictions on water use state-wide, after the state fell short on targets for reducing water use. The rules force cities to limit watering on public property, encourage homeowners to let their lawns die and impose mandatory water-savings targets for the hundreds of local agencies and cities that supply water to California customers.


-- Patrick Rizzo and The Associated Press