California Water Comes from Snow
Snowmelt contributes 75% of all water in streams throughout the west. Snowmelt in Lassen feeds flows into four different watersheds: Upper Feather River, Mill Creek, Pit River, and Battle Creek. These watersheds are part of the CA State Water Project which delivers water to two-thirds of California's population plus supplemental water to approximately 25 million Californians and about 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland. Reduced snowpack, warmer wintertime temperatures, and earlier spring melt will deplete these crucial snow-based reservoirs. On March 12, 2014, the California Cooperative Snow Surveys reported 19-20% of normal snowpack in the northern Sierras. What will California look like with less water?
Lassen receives 30 feet of snow in an average winter. Marmots, ground squirrels, and bears may emerge from hibernation earlier in the spring due to warming temperatures and lack of snowfall, or not hibernate at all. Without adequate food sources, these animals face the risk of starvation. Amphibians require water to reproduce, and low snowpack and earlier spring melt can decrease the number of ponds or ponds may evaporate before eggs can hatch. Drought can cause animals to congregate at water sources, making them more vulnerable to predation. Additionally limited water and food can cause animals to expand their foraging area, increasing the possibility of wildlife-human interactions.
Jeffrey A. Hicke, University of Idaho
How Does Drought Affect Trees?Drought leaves trees thirsty and stressed. With warmer, drier conditions, trees are more likely to become infected with insects. At Lassen, the native Jeffrey pine beetle bore into the trees and lay their eggs, eventually killing the tree. Park staff is currently implementing efforts to lessen the impact of pine beetles on susceptible old growth Jeffrey pines in the Manzanita Lake area. What will you do to protect Lassen's oldest trees?
How Does Drought Effect Fire?Hot temperatures and dry conditions are a major contributor to an increase in the likelihood and severity of wildfires. Lassen’s winter snowpack normally provides moisture that helps mitigate fire danger well into August. With precipitation far below normal, current fire conditions in the park are similar to what we would typically see in the fall. Without a sufficient snowpack, Lassen can expect to see increased fire danger earlier in the year and for a longer period of time. Have you seen changes in wildfire where you live?
What is Lassen Doing to Conserve Water?
What Can You Do to Conserve Water?