Despite Promising Snowpack, Conservation Should Continue

Taylor Hillman Drought, Water, Weather

Snowy mountain tops in Yosemite
The California snowpack this year holds more water than last year, but the Department of Water Resources says drought conditions continue and so should conservation.

Results of the winter’s second media-oriented manual snow survey by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) confirmed what Californians have been saying for weeks: It’s raining and snowing much more this winter than last.

Rainfall and the Sierra Nevada snowpack’s water content are both markedly improved this water year, and storage in the state’s major reservoirs also has increased significantly since January 1. Rainfall in the three regions tracked continuously by DWR was 123 percent of the historical average between October 1 and January 31.

While precipitation this water year is improved over last year, that’s not to say California’s long drought is over. Most of the state’s major reservoirs still hold much less than their historical averages for early February. Californians are encouraged to continue their water conservation.

DWR conducted its second media-oriented manual snow survey of the winter today at the Phillips snow course 90 miles east of Sacramento just off highway 50. Surveyors found the snowpack’s water content there much improved compared to the early-February survey last year.

Led by Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, the team found a snow water equivalent of 25.4 inches, which is 130 percent of the February average of 19.5 inches at Phillips since 1966 (see

Last year, Gehrke recorded a water content of just 2.5 inches in the February survey. Both the depth and water content at Phillips today were the highest since 2005, when a depth of 77.1 inches and water content of 29.9 inches were recorded.