Snow Survey Finds Slightly Increased Water Content

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Storms are lightly blanketing the Sierra with fresh snow, but Department of Water Resources (DWR) snow surveyors today reported that snowpack water content remains far below what will be needed by cities and farms this summer.

“We welcome the late storms but they are not enough to end the drought,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “We can’t control the weather but we can control the amount of water we use.This drought is a wake-up call that we all have to take water conservation seriously and make it a way of life.”

Although freshly fallen snow brightened the scenery Thursday morning as DWR and cooperating agencies trekked into the mountains to conduct the winter’s third manual snow survey, the state’s drought has left the Sierra largely bare for much of the winter.

On Tuesday, before the current storm system reached the area, water content in the statewide snowpack was 22 percent of normal for the date and only 19 percent of the average reading in early April when snow begins to melt into streams and reservoirs. These readings were just above the 1991record lows of 18 percent for the date and 15 percent of the April 1 average.

Manual and electronic readings today record the snowpack’s statewide water content just slightly improved at 24 percent of average for the date, still far below normal but with more snow expected. That is 21 percent of the average April 1 reading. Electronic readings indicate that water content in the northern mountains is 15 percent of normal for the date and 13 percent of the April 1 average.

Electronic readings in the central Sierra show 32 percent of normal for the date and 28 percent of the April 1 average. The numbers for the southern Sierra are 24 percent of average for the date and 20 percent of the April 1 average.

Surveyors from DWR and cooperating agencies manually measure snowpack water content on or about the first of the month from January through May to supplement and check the accuracy of real-time electronic readings.