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Winter snowpack at 85 percent of normal

But water official offers cautious optimism in face of three dry years

The first snow survey of the 2009-2010 winter season indicates that California's snow water content is 85 percent of normal, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Noting that at this time last year the volume of water contained in the Sierra snow pack was at 76 percent of normal, Department of Water Resources Chief Deputy Director Sue Sims offered cautious optimism in the face of three prior below-average years and urged continued conservation.

"Despite some recent storms, today's snow survey shows that we're still playing catch-up when it comes to our statewide water supplies," Sims said in a statement.

"Looking at a real possibility of a fourth dry year, we must prepare now, conserve now and act now so that we have enough water for homes, farms and businesses in 2010 and the future," Sims said.

Agency officials said that it's too early in the season to tell whether improved figures over last year's first snow survey will translate into a better water year overall.

Electronic sensor readings showed the northern Sierra snow water content at 77 percent of normal for this date, the central Sierra at 85 percent, and the southern Sierra at 99 percent, according to DWR.

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