Saturday, 25 May 2024

Snow survey: Water levels below average

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the survey Thursday at Echo Summit off Highway 50 near Lake Tahoe.

Readings show the snowpack at below normal levels for the date, but DWR officials said the survey is not particularly significant in judging how much spring snowmelt runoff may occur because mountain conditions could change dramatically before spring arrives.

“We really don’t start worrying about drought conditions unless we’ve had the misfortune of multiple dry years strung together coupled with below average storage conditions,” said DWR Chief Hydrologist Maury Roos.

“Despite a slow start to this rainy season, we’re coming off several good years in terms of runoff and reservoir storage is still around 120 percent,” Roos added. “We’re only a third of the way through the rainy season for California and one or two good storms can catch us up fairly quickly.”

Electronic sensor readings posted Thursday show Northern Sierra snow water equivalents at 68 percent of normal for this date, Central Sierra at 55 percent and Southern Sierra at 52 percent. Statewide, the percentage of normal is at 59 percent.


Snow-water content is important in determining the year's water supply. The measurements help hydrologists prepare water supply forecasts as well as provide others, such as hydroelectric power companies and the recreation industry, with much needed data.

Monitoring is coordinated by the Department of Water Resources 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.

The next survey will take place in approximately one month’s time.

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

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