Although snow surveyors for the California Department of Water Resources found the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada to be 118 percent of normal in late February, farmers still will face curtailed water deliveries this season.

The reason is a federal court order that limits the amount of Northern California water that can be pumped across the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California and Central Valley water users. The move is intended to protect the delta smelt, a 3-inch-long fish that lives in the delta and is on the federal endangered species list..

On the day the snowpack data was released, federal judge Oliver Wanger ordered pumping reduced by 75 percent. Typically at this time of year, the pumps would be moving 8,000 cubic feet per second. The reductions could last up to seven days.

This year’s pumping reduction will reduce the amount of water that can be allocated to the 29 state water contractors between 11 percent and 30 percent.

The February snow survey was the third of the 2008 snowfall season.

The most recent electronic sensor readings show Northern Sierra snow water equivalents at 122 percent of normal for this date, the Central Sierra at 110 percent, and the Southern Sierra at 130 percent. Statewide, the percentage of normal is at 118 percent.

Electronic sensor readings one year ago showed the Northern Sierra at 69 percent of normal, the Central Sierra at 64 percent and the Southern Sierra at 52 percent. The statewide average was 63 percent.

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