Snowpack Survey Provides Hope for Season Ahead

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Water

Snowpack Survey

The most recent snowpack survey, conducted at the Philips Station by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) shows a substantial increase in snow from previous years, due to early winter storms. Although this snow is being praised now, DWR officials explain that it will take much more to recover from California’s current drought situation.

“Our survey today reported a snow depth of 78.5 inches and a snow water content of 20 inches,” said Sean de Guzman, Manager of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit. “That results in 202 percent of average to date, and 82 percent of the April 1 average here at this location. Looking at our automated snow sensory network, our statewide snowpack is currently sitting at 160 percent of average.”

Compared to recent years, the snow seems like a massive step towards recovery from California’s drought. This will only be the case if January and February continue to bring storms and snow similar to December. There are concerns of this year being similar to 2013, which is notorious for having a wet start that turned into the driest year in recorded history. 

The snowpack survey explained that the snow water equivalent is estimated at 20 inches. DWR cites this as a significant number to monitor as it is a critical element used to forecast water supply for the year. With the Sierra snowpack contributing to nearly 30 percent of the state’s water supply, the continual ability of the snowpack to produce consistent runoff becomes vital to maintaining a healthy water supply. 

“We could not have asked for a better December in terms of Sierra snow and rain,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “But Californians need to be aware that even these big storms may not refill our major reservoirs during the next few months. We need more storms and average temperatures this winter and spring, and we can’t be sure it’s coming. So, it’s important that we continue to do our part to keep conserving – we will need that water this summer.”