California Snowpack Tripled from Previous Water Year

Brian German Agri-Business, Water

The latest manual snow survey for the current water year revealed that California’s snowpack tripled from what the state experienced last year.   The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted its monthly snow survey on April 2 in the Sierra Nevada mountains at Phillips Station, approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento.

snowpack tripled“At this location for our snow course, we have a depth of 106.5 [inches] with a snow water content of 51 inches.  Now that’s the fourth-best snow water content that we’ve had historically at this location for this time of year,” said DWR Public Information Officer Chris Orrock, who also noted that the snowpack is 162 percent of the average on a state level.  Last year at this time the snowpack was only 53 percent of average.  “Our April survey is very significant because this is typically when we see the deepest snowpack with the most water content and our water managers use that to judge what type of melt off we’re going to get as we get into the warmer, drier summer months,” said Orrock.

The water year started out slow, but several storms came through the state at a fairly rapid pace.  “California has experienced more than 30 atmospheric rivers since the start of this water year, six coming in February alone.  Many years we only get six total for the entire water year.  These heavily water laden storms, combined with low average temperatures have created what we see in this field today, a snowpack that is well above average,” said Kris Tjernell, DWR Deputy Director for Integrated Watershed Management.  “This year marks the seventh-highest snow water equivalent on record.”

With California’s snowpack tripled over 2018, the state will also be heading into the summer with a significant amount of water stored.  The state’s largest 12 reservoirs are nearly all at their historical average.  Millerton, Perris, Castaic, and Pine Flat are the only four not at or above the average for this point in the season.  San Luis Reservoir is just below its overall capacity, while Shasta, Oroville, Melones, and Don Pedro are all above 80 percent of capacity and well above the historical average.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West