ECHO SUMMIT, California – The Latest on California's drought (all times local):
State water surveyors have found a nearly average snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, setting the stage for tough decisions on water conservation requirements for California residents.
Regulators say the key spring measurement on Wednesday found the snowpack at about 95 percent of normal. They intend to use the figure when they reopen a discussion on whether to ease or drop the savings mandates.
During the historic drought, now in its fifth year, Californians have been ordered to use at least 20 percent less water. To comply, many have let lawns turn brown and flushed toilets less often.
The snowpack was aided by an El Nino storm system that dumped more water on the northern part of the state while leaving southern areas relatively dry.
George Kostyrko of the State Water Board says officials will consider this difference while setting new conservation targets.
The snowpack provides roughly one-third of California's water.
State drought surveyors will trudge through deep snow Wednesday to manually measure what could be close to a normal Sierra Nevada snowpack for this time of year.
A year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown stood on the same spot — then a dusty patch of ground with no snow — to announce that the dire drought required residents to cut back water use by 25 percent.
Surveyors expect to find much more snow this time thanks to the El Nino storms that have drenched Northern California.
But Doug Carlson of the state's Department of Water Resources says it won't end the record dry spell.
Still, state water board spokesman George Kostyrko said agency officials expect to soon re-open a discussion of the conservation order issued by Brown.