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Drought likely to cut California's hydroelectric output

WASHINGTON, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Already struggling with cuts to agricultural production and other impacts from a record setting drought, California faces the prospect of lower hydroelectric power generation as well, a U.S. government report said on Thursday.

A persistent dry spell has drained water supplies in California and neighboring Nevada. About 60 percent of California is now classified as experiencing extreme drought, the Energy Information Administration said in a "Today in Energy" brief.

A smaller part of the state is in "exceptional drought," the worst category in the U.S. drought monitor index, the National Drought Mitigation Center showed in a weekly report. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?CA

Snowpack - an indication of how much water will be available to fill reservoirs and power hydroelectric generators throughout the year - in the northern Sierra Nevada range is about one-fifth of normal.

"Drought is lowering expectations for water supply in the state, which would include hydroelectric dams," Tyson Brown, an EIA hydropower analyst, told Reuters.

Projections for water levels throughout California and Nevada were less than half of seasonal averages as of Wednesday, said the EIA, the statistical branch of the Department of Energy.

In a Jan. 7 forecast, the EIA said the western United States, including California, would produce 475,000 megawatt hours of electricity per day in 2014, up from 470,000 megawatt hours in 2013.

The agency is scheduled to release its next hydropower generation forecast on Tuesday.

Hydroelectric dams have accounted for varying portions of electricity generated within California since 1989, from 11 percent in 1992, a low-water year, to 28 percent in 1995, a high-water year.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Ros Krasny and Marguerita Choy)