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Promise of El Niño Fury Turns Into a Whimper

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Water wise, Northern California is better off, but not by enough

Yesterday's water content measurement confirmed what Californians have been concerned about all winter: El Niño is not living up to drought-lifting hopes.

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the sporadic rains and sizable (but not drought ending) Sierra snowpack has left state officials in the strange position of considering easing water restrictions in Northern California and continuing to enforce them in Southern California. The tests showed that the water content of the snow is currently at 87 percent statewide. (That breaks down to 98 percent normal in Northern California, 88 percent normal in the central part of the state, and 72 percent normal in Southern California.) Officials say we'd need 150 percent of normal levels to break the drought's grip.

Because Northern California has received the brunt of El Niño's force, officials told Chronicle reporters they are considering relaxing some water use restrictions (currently at 36 percent of 2013 usage levels). No such luck for Southern California.

Jonas Minton of the Planning and Conservation League told reporters: "All water years are different. What is important for California is how we manage whatever water supplies we receive."