Water & Drought

How above average is Sierra Nevada snowpacks? Final snow survey points to ample supply

Cold and dense: Here’s final snow survey of 2019, and things couldn’t be better

The Department of Water Resources recorded 47 inches of snow at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada, South Lake Tahoe, with a snow equivalent of 27.5 inches, 88 percent above average at this time of year.
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The Department of Water Resources recorded 47 inches of snow at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada, South Lake Tahoe, with a snow equivalent of 27.5 inches, 88 percent above average at this time of year.

Water in California’s snowpack was above average Thursday in the final snow survey of the year, boding well for the state’s water supply in the coming months.

The Department of Water Resources recorded 47 inches of snow at Phillips Station with a snow-water equivalent of 27.5 inches, which is 88% above average for this time of year, according to a news release issued by the department.

Statewide, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is doing even better, with an average snow-water equivalent of 31 inches, which is 44% above average for this time of year, according to the release.

“California’s cities and farms can expect ample water supplies this summer,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a prepared statement.

This year’s snowpack — which is the fifth largest recorded — peaked on March 31, according to the release. Surveyors recorded more than 100 inches of snow at Phillips on April 2, the fourth-highest results of an early April measurement.

The season began slightly below average, but with continued snowstorms throughout the winter, snow levels more than doubled by February.

“2019 has been an extremely good year in terms of snowpack,” DWR Chief of the Division of Flood Management Jon Ericson said in a prepared statement. “Based on our surveys, we are seeing a very dense, cold snowpack that will continue to produce run-off into late summer.”

Snowpack runoff supplies about a third of water used in the state and reservoirs are doing well, too, according to the DWR.

The six largest reservoirs in California are between 96% and 128% percent of average for this time of year, while Lake Shasta, the state’s biggest surface reservoir, is 8% above average for this time of year, according to the release.

Despite the optimistic water outlook, “it’s critical that it’s put to use replenishing groundwater basins and storage reservoirs for the next inevitable drought,” Nemeth said. “Every resident and business can also help California by using water as efficiently as possible.”

See how the snowpack compares in the Sierra in satellite imagery from early February from 2018 and 2019 .

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