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Water In California's Snowpack Below Average

California Department of Water Resources

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, conducted the season's first manual snow survey at Phillips Station near Lake Tahoe.

California Department of Water Resources

[UPDATE: Wednesday] The California Department of Resources says electronic readings show the most recent storms this week have once again boosted the water content in Sierra snowpack.

Statewide, they show the amount of water in the snow is 84 percent of the long-term average.

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California Department of Water Resources

California snowpack supplies about a third of the state’s water needs.  

For the last 50 years, surveyors manually measure the amount of water in the snow at Phillips Station, near Lake Tahoe. This month the water content is about half of normal there.

“This is a snapshot of a single location and we had six inches of water content that is about 53 percent of its long term average," says Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program. 

Last year's first manual snow survey found water content at 136 percent of the long term average.

He says the electronic readings statewide provide a better and more telling picture.

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Graphic / California Department of Water Resources

 

They show the amount of water in the snow is about 70 percent of average statewide.

Forecasters say more storms are coming. They're predicting four to five feet of snow above 5,000 feet in the Sierra mountains.

“I’m encouraged. I think this is a more typical winter where we have a nice wet fall, which we did in October, breaking records for October accumulations at many stations, and that we’re having a series of storms,” says Gehrke.

The greater the snowpack water content, the greater the likelihood California’s reservoirs will receive ample runoff to meet the state’s water demand in the summer and fall. 
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Photo / California Department of Water Resources