Drought-parched California expecting welcome dose of spring rain

By Dan Whitcomb LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A spring storm was expected to bring several inches of rain to some areas of drought-parched California and up to two feet of snow to mountains beginning late on Monday, just days after Governor Jerry Brown ordered sweeping cuts in water use. Meteorologists said the early April rain and snow would be welcome in a state suffering through a devastating, multi-year drought, but cautioned that it would not make a significant dent on California's water-shortage problems. Brown last week ordered residents and businesses across California to cut water use by 25 percent in the first such mandatory statewide reduction in the state's history. "The impact (of this storm) is going to be pretty minimal on the drought," National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Sukup said. "In Northern California we're only calling two to three inches of rain at the most. Sukup said the storm, which originated in the Gulf of Alaska, was soaking the states of Washington and Oregon on Monday morning before it was due to move into Northern California later in the day. He said the San Francisco Bay Area could expect half-inch to a full inch of rain, with more in foothills, before the storm headed for Southern California bringing similar rainfall amounts. Sukup said the storm could drop up to two feet of snow in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains, good news for a state which relies heavily on snowpack for its water supply. California's snowpack, which generally provides about a third of the state's water, is at its lowest level on record. Brown signed emergency legislation last week that fast-tracked over $1 billion in funding for drought relief and water infrastructure within the parched state. That proposed legislation would appropriate voter-approved bond funds to speed up water projects and provide aid to struggling California communities. In March, the state Water Resources Control Board imposed new drought regulations, outlawing lawn watering within 48 hours of rain and prohibiting glasses of water from being served in restaurants unless customers request it. Brown has been criticized for exempting farmers, who use some 80 percent of the state's water, from the 25 percent reduction and for not moving to stop planting of such water-intensive crops as almonds. State officials counter that farmers have already been hit by moves to release less water than usual from reservoirs and periodic restrictions on pumping from rivers and creeks. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Richard Chang)