Dry January Takes a Toll on Promising Start to Water Year

Brian German Water

The second manual snow survey for the current water year demonstrated the impact that dry conditions in January have had on California’s snowpack. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the survey at Phillips Station earlier in the week. While the measurements were relatively strong, there is still concern for the rest of the season as statewide water storage levels sit at about 76 percent of average.

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“For our survey today, we recorded a snow depth of 48.5 inches and a snow water content of 19 inches. That results in 109 percent of average to date and 78 percent of the April 1 average here at this location,” said Sean de Guzman, Manager of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit. “That one dry month of January basically wiped out whatever head start we had as we head towards the end of winter. We still have about two more months to build up our snowpack, but we all need to be prepared for a third consecutive dry year.”

The measurement taken at Phillips Station is a bit higher than the overall statewide average. de Guzman explained that the storms that came through California in December essentially centered on the region. “Our statewide snowpack is currently sitting at 92 percent of average to date as of this morning based off our automated snow sensor network,” de Guzman noted.

The Category 5 atmospheric river that came through California in October provided a positive start to the water year. That was followed up by a dry November. de Guzman said that December snowfall pushed the snowpack well above average. Now, following an exceptionally dry January, the need for significant storm events in the coming months becomes more dire.

“The first half of February will be pretty dry. We won’t really see much of any big snowfall or rainfall over the next two weeks,” said de Guzman. “We will need to see a return of those winter storms during February and during March to really keep track and remain right around normal.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West