SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Catholic bishops called for divine intervention Tuesday as California endures what appears to be its third straight dry winter.
The California Conference of Catholic Bishops asked people of all faiths to join in prayers for rain as reservoirs in the state dipped to historic lows after one of the driest calendar years on record.
Some cities already are restricting water use, while prospects for another dry summer have raised alarm about agriculture and wildfires.
The first Sierra Nevada snow survey of the winter last week found the water content in the statewide snowpack to be just 20 percent of average for this time of year. Without relief, state water managers said they will be able to deliver just 5 percent of the water sought by agencies that supply more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland.
Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto, president of the bishops' conference, suggested a prayer for God to "open the heavens and let His mercy rain down upon our fields and mountains."
"Our reliance on water reveals how much we are part of Creation and Creation is a part of us," Soto said in a news release that included four other suggested prayers for relief and for the wellbeing of those most at risk from a water shortage. The bishops said a drought, if it comes, will affect people's livelihoods, health and quality of life.
Concern is growing in California even as much of the rest of the nation huddles in a deep freeze fed by blasts of Arctic air.
National Weather Service meteorologist Drew Peterson said Pacific storms keep breaking up due to a high pressure system over California. Weak systems could bring some precipitation on Thursday and Saturday to Northern California's mountains, but it won't be enough to make a dent in the drought, he said.
There may be no precipitation at all south of Sacramento through mid-January, though there are signs of a stronger system working its way in during the third or fourth week of the month.
"At least it gives us something to be hopeful for," Peterson said. "If we don't start seeing some significant precip anytime soon, we're going to have to start thinking about some serious water measures."