Snow Survey as Bad as Predicted

The first snowpack survey of the year is discouraging to say the least.

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012  |  Updated 4:38 PM PDT
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Snow Survey as Bad as Predicted

Much of Tahoe received zero snowfall in the month of December.

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California's mountain snowpack is among the driest on record for Jan. 3, the California Department of Water Resources said.

The mountain snow that melts into reservoirs, streams and aquifers  in the spring and summer provide approximately one-third of the water for the  state's households, farms and industries.

"Fortunately, we have most of winter ahead of us, and our  reservoir storage is good," Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin said.

State water managers said they are cautiously optimistic about  this year's water supply.

Manual and electronic readings today determined the snowpack's  statewide water content is 19 percent of the Jan. 3 average and only seven  percent of the average April 1 measurement when the snowpack is normally at  its peak before the spring melt.

Readings were taken this morning at four locations at elevations  between 6,500 and 7,600 feet near Echo Summit in the Sierra.

The snow depth was zero at the 7,600-foot Alpha station and 7.1  inches at 6,700-foot Lyons Creek.

Electronic readings indicate the water content in the northern  mountains is 21 percent of normal for Jan. 3 and 8 percent of the April 1  seasonal average, according to the DWR.

Water content in the central Sierra is 13 percent of normal for  today's date and five percent of the April 1 average.

The southern Sierra numbers are 26 percent of average for Jan. 3  and nine percent of the April 1 average.

On Wednesday, the Department of Water Resources said the snowpack  water content statewide at the end of an unusually dry December is only 24  percent of normal for that date. On Dec. 27, 2010, the statewide snowpack  water content was 202 percent of average.

"Thanks to good reservoir storage left over from last winter's  storms, we anticipate an adequate water supply next summer," Cowin said.

"Our initial estimate is that we'll be able to deliver 60 percent  of the slightly more than 4 million acre-feet of water requested from the  State Water Project, and we hope to increase the percentage as winter storms  develop," Cowin said last week.

An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, enough to cover one acre to a  depth of one foot.

The snowpack surveys are conducted on the first of the month from  January to May.

The manual surveys supplement and check the accuracy of real-time  electronic readings from sensors in the state.

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