Latest Survey Shows Continued Snowpack Growth

UNION CITY, CA – The state’s ongoing stormy weather is adding to California’s large snowpack, state water officials confirmed during their third snow survey of the year, and it bodes good news for the state, which has been suffering from drought for nearly three years.

Along with the series of winter storms that battered California in December and January, the recent storms have brought the state above-average snow cover, water officials said in a news release issued after the March 3 snow survey.

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After months of heavy rain and snow, drought conditions across the state have improved tremendously, according to the US Drought Monitor, which shows about 25 percent of the state is experiencing a severe drought, compared with just over 80 percent at the start of the Rainy season .

The results of the state’s most recent manual snow survey offered more good news for the drought-hit state.

“The manual survey recorded a snow depth of 116.5 inches and a snow water equivalent of 41.5 inches, which is 177 percent of the average for that location on March 3,” the California Department of Water Resources said.

Statewide, DWR’s electronic snow sensors found the snow-to-water equivalent of snow cover to be 44.7 inches, which is 190 percent of the average for the date.

“Thankfully, recent storms combined with January’s atmospheric flows contributed to above-average snow cover that will help fill some of the state’s reservoirs and maximize groundwater recharge efforts.” But the benefits vary by region and the Northern Sierra, home to the state’s largest reservoir Lake Shasta, lags behind the rest of the Sierra,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “It will also take more than a good year for the Remediation of the state’s aquifers will begin.”

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Although statewide snow cover is currently just behind the record snow year of 1982-83, snow cover varies significantly by region, DWR said in the release.

“Snowpack in the Southern Sierra is currently at 209 percent of its April 1 average and the Central Sierra is at 175 percent of its April 1 average. However, the critical Northern Sierra, home to the state’s largest surface water reservoirs, is at 136 percent of its April 1 average.”

With just one month left of the traditional rainy season, DWR is providing water managers with updated runoff forecasts and closely monitoring spring runoff scenarios and river flows to ensure water supplies benefit most from this year’s snowpack while balancing the need for flood control.

“The recent storms of the past week have dramatically broken months of drought,” said Sean de Guzman, DWR’s division manager for snow surveys and water supply forecasts. “We’re hoping to see more cold storms over the next month that will complement our snowpack and help usher in a long, slow melt spell into spring.”

The US Drought Monitor now classifies most of the state as unusually dry, while 16.7 percent of the state has no drought at all.

The next snow measurement by the DWR is provisionally planned for April 3rd.


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