Thin snowpack is bad news, especially for salmon

State water officials announced yesterday that the Sierra snowpack is 61 percent of normal for this time of year, making for the third dry year in a row and raising the possibility of water rationing in California. (DWR press release here; a video is also available).

“We may be at the start of the worst California drought in modern history.  It’s imperative for Californians to conserve water immediately at home and in their businesses,” said Lester Snow, director of the state Department of Water Resources, in the press release.

A drought would be bad news for people, especially farmers, but it will fall hard on salmon and steelhead trout that depend on cold water in streams and rivers to breed, says UC Davis fisheries expert Peter Moyle. If low-running streams heat up to 70 degrees, eggs and juvenile fish will die, Moyle told the San Jose Mercury News. The salmon and trout are already in enough trouble as it is: in a report published by California Trout last November, Moyle warned that two-thirds of California’s salmon and trout species could be extinct in the next 100 years.

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