Dismal Snowpack Survey Reflects Third Driest Year on Record

Brian German Agri-Business, Water

The latest manual snow survey from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) reflects a dismal snowpack. The April 1 manual snow survey at Phillips Station garnered better results than the rest of the state. Much like the previous survey, the Northern and Central Sierras have fared much better than the Southern Sierras in 2021.

Dismal Snowpack

“Our survey today recorded a snow depth of 49.5 inches and a snow water content of 21 inches. That results in 83 percent of average for this location,” said Sean de Guzman, Chief of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section. “Additionally, our statewide automated snow sensor network is reporting 59 percent of average to date.”

California’s water storage levels are also similarly lower than average. Shasta currently measures only 65 percent of average and Oroville is even lower at 53 percent of average. A few reservoirs have much more positive water levels with Melones at 102 percent of average and Don Pedro at 94 percent. “Statewide, California’s largest reservoirs are only storing about half of their total capacity,” said de Guzman.

Officials will be monitoring the snowpack in the coming weeks to determine what kind of runoff can be expected. Despite some heavy storms coming through California over the past few months, overall, it has been a disappointing year for precipitation levels. “Statewide rainfall has been well below average. For water year 2021, California has received about 50 percent of average precipitation which currently ties for the third driest year on record,” de Guzman noted.

The dismal snowpack survey comes as no surprise after other recent announcements pertaining to drought conditions in California.  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently declared all California counties natural disaster areas due to drought. Water allocations have also been disappointing for farmers in recent weeks. DWR lowered water allocations for the State Water Project from 10 percent to five percent. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has also suspended the availability of water supplies for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West