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Assemblyman calls for audit to investigate state’s water operations
snowpack check March 2022
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted its third snow survey of the season at Phillips Station On March 1. Following a January and February that entered records as the driest documented in state history, the manual survey recorded snow depths that are 68 percent of average for this location for March.

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, on Monday asked the state Legislative Audit Committee to order an audit of California’s water operations. The audit would look at the functions of both the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board.

Gray cited last year’s loss of roughly 700,000 acre-feet of water – enough to supply 1.4 million California households for a year – as one of his prime considerations.

“Why was no one held accountable after the state grossly miscalculated how much moisture was actually stored in the Sierras last year?” asked Gray. He pointed out that local irrigation districts and a federal agency whose duties include calculating how much water is in the annual snowpack did not make similar mistakes.

According to Gray, in the 2021 water year, California water officials disastrously miscalculated the moisture content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack. Because the Department of Water Resources didn’t know how much water was in the snow, or how much would be absorbed by the parched ground beneath, the department grossly overestimated how much would flow into reservoirs. That led the department to allow nearly 700,000 acre-feet – some say much more – to flow to the ocean.

“The water is long gone,” said Gray in an opinion column printed at “All we are left with are questions.”

The Department of Water Resources released an unknown amount of water in anticipation of spring runoff. Meanwhile, the drought of 2021 saw some cities run out of water entirely and many domestic wells going dry. There was also a loss of juvenile salmon in the Sacramento River and its tributaries.

Gray also questioned ongoing operations. In February 2022, DWR was releasing nearly three-times the normal flows for that period from the largest state-operated reservoir – Lake Oroville – even as climatologists throughout the nation were predicting a resumption of drought.

“Until we understand what has gone wrong with the agencies charged with managing California’s water, we cannot understand how to fix the problem,” wrote Gray, who represents Assembly District 21, which includes Ceres, and parts of Stanislaus and Merced counties.