With temperatures warming up and summer quickly approaching, focus is shifting to snowmelt runoff and that will mean for California water supplies. The fifth and final manual snow survey was conducted by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on April 30 at Phillips Station snow course revealed discouraging measurements.
“For our results today, we recorded a snow depth of 1.5 inches and a snow water content of half an inch,” said chief of DWR’s Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecast Section Sean de Guzman. “That results in three percent of an average May and two percent of the April 1 average here at this location.”
While the readings from Phillips Station were disappointing, the outlook for the state as a whole shows a much more positive picture. “Our automated snow sensor network is reporting about 37 percent of average statewide for our snowpack; so not quite what we’re seeing here today mainly because here at the Phillips Station snow course we are in a fully exposed meadow,” De Guzman noted.
The water year for 2020 began back in October with a slow start for rain and snowfall. December came through with significant precipitation levels, which De Guzman noted was 130 percent of the average. Another dry spell came through for January and February with very limited amounts of rain and snow. The storms that hit California in March and April helped to offset the first two months of the year, with the snowpack peaking at nearly 64 percent of the average in mid-April. The spring rain and snowfall helped to secure a bit more positive outlook for water supplies moving forward.
“Although seasonal precipitation, snow, and runoff will end below average for this year, luckily our reservoirs – our major reservoirs – are all currently near or above their historic averages for this time of year,” said De Guzman. “As we move into the dry summer months the latest water supply forecasts of snowmelt runoff are ranging anywhere between 50 to 70 percent of average.”