Friday, 17 May 2024

Officials: March 'bleak' for precipitation

SACRAMENTO – State officials are reporting that the state's critical snowpack is hovering below 50 percent of normal.


The California Department of Water Resources conducted the fourth manual snow survey of the season on Highway 50 near Echo Summit on Wednesday.


State hydrologists monitor snow-water content in order to determine water supply for the year ahead.


Measurements were taken at elevations ranging between 6,500 and 7,600 feet, with average snowpacks between 35 and 55 percent of normal. Snow depths measured between 35 and 52 inches.


Electronic sensor readings posted Wednesday on the California Data Exchange Center's Web site show Northern Sierra snow water equivalents at 52 percent of normal for this date, Central Sierra at 48 percent and Southern Sierra at 38 percent.


Statewide, the snowpack is at 46 percent of normal, DWR officials said. That's down sharply from the 64 percent of normal snowpack reported at the start of March.


Previous statewide averages for the season were 40 percent for February and 59 percent for January.


DWR Snow Survey Section Chief Frank Gehrke said Monday night's storm helped the snowpack by about 2 inches but "instead of seeing an increase of 5 or 6 inches in March, we lost 8 or 9 inches," he said.


"That's a pretty bleak month," he added.


Snowpack information is part of the data used by DWR's State Water Project (SWP) Analysis Office in determining how much water will delivered each year through the SWP. Currently, the SWP is meeting 60 percent of requested amounts, which officials say translate to about 2.5 million acre feet for the year.


DWR officials say those deliveries will be particularly meaningful for the south state this year.


While reservoir storage in California is at or above normal thanks to a wet 2006, much of Southern California is experiencing its driest rainfall year on record.


DWR reported Wednesday that only 2.47 inches of rain have fallen in downtown Los Angeles since July 1. In a normal year, that figure would be more than 13 inches. Los Angeles has received only 18 percent of its normal rainfall for this time of year.


Southern California and other parts of the state also could be facing water shortages due to a recent court decision. That ruling, which came last week, would would shut off the pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in 60 days unless DWR gets the permits necessary for the killing of endangered fish, which die yearly in the Delta's pump system.


The fifth and last snow survey of the season will take place on April 26.


DWR coordinates the snow monitoring program as part of the multi-agency California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program. Surveyors from more than 50 agencies and utilities visit hundreds of snow measurement courses in California's mountains each month to gauge the amount of water in the snowpack.


For real-time snow-water sensor readings, visit .


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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