SACRAMENTO -- -- Saying California's water reserves are all but gone, state officials on Thursday announced the revival of a dormant 17-year-old program to buy water from Sacramento Valley farmers and sell it to the thirstiest Southern California agencies in case this winter brings a third year of skimpy precipitation.
"We're hoping for the best, that we're going to have a good storm season and be able to meet the needs of California," said state Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow. "However, we would be negligent if we didn't prepare for the worst."
The bounty of the state's biggest reservoirs, which supplied the state through the last two dry years with Sierra and Cascade mountain snowmelt, is disappearing. Major reservoirs, including Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, are now at half of what is typical for this time of year.
"There are a number of scenarios where we do not regain our snow pack," Snow said, "and because our storage is low, we're really in a lot of trouble."
State officials said long-range climate predictions indicate that this winter may bring average precipitation or less.