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Winter Snow Survey Better Than Last Year But Not Good Enough

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

Snow in Sierra Nevada. Photo taken 2013.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

California has had greater than normal precipitation this year, but not greater than normal snowfall. The first winter snow survey shows the amount of water in the snow statewide is 50 percent of average.

One third of the state relies on water that comes from melting Sierra snowpack. Frank Gehrke with the Department of Water Resources says manual readings show water in the snow on Echo Summit is four inches, just 33 percent of average. He says it’s not enough to fill the state’s reservoirs.

“As the snow melts then it has to replenish the groundwater before it runs off so it’s kind of a double whammy when you have low snow conditions from several years in a row,” says Gehrke.

December storms brought mostly rain instead of snow. But Paul Wenger with the California Farm Bureau Federation says it will help some.

“I think it will help farmers not having to irrigate as early as we did last year and so overall we’re in much better shape obviously then last year," says Wenger. "But we’re still hoping for more to come.”

Last winter’s first survey showed water content at just 20 percent of normal.