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California’s Snowpack Remains Below Average

California Department of Water Resources / Courtesy

California Department of Water Resources / Courtesy

The three traditionally wettest months of the year have ended with below average water in the Sierra Nevada snowpack. 

The California Department of Water Resources conducted its manual snow survey at Echo Summit in the Central Sierra. Water content in the snow there was the best it’s been in March since 2011, at 27 inches. But, electronic readings statewide show water content in the snow is just 83 percent of normal for the year. 

“Clearly El Niño is not a slam dunk,” says Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program.



Gehrke says despite predictions of a wet climate pattern, the state just didn’t see enough precipitation in February.

“We basically went for two or three weeks with no snow activity at all,” he says. “And that clearly is showing up in the fact that we’re now below average in all of the key regions that we track.”

But he says there is still hope for a "Miracle March."

“We have had very wet Marches in the past, so we can’t rule that out. In 1991, we gained 17 inches of water content during the month of March.”

Traditionally, half the state’s annual water falls as rain or snow in December, January, and February. Only one of the state’s eight largest reservoirs holds more water than its historical average. 

Sierra Nevada snowpack provides about one-third of the state’s water supply.

Snow Survey Numbers

 Results of todays’s manual readings by DWR near Echo Summit. California Department of Water Resources / Courtesy

Amy Quinton

Environment Reporter

Amy came to Sacramento from New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) where she was Environment Reporter. Amy has also reported for NPR member stations WFAE in Charlotte, WAMU in Washington D.C. and American Public Media's "Marketplace."  Read Full Bio