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Sierra Snowpack Near Record Levels But Drought Concerns Remain

The Sierra Nevada snowpack is at near-record levels according to a state survey taken Wednesday, but that doesn't mean the state's drought issues are fully erased.
The water content throughout the Sierra Nevada snowpack is at 185 percent of normal, more than February's survey and up substantially from January's below-average reading. According to the California Department of Water Resources, this doesn't break a record for March 1 but comes close. Snow accumulation has leveled off the past week, according to Chief Snow Surveyor Frank Gehrke, and the forecast calls for several more days dry weather.
"The record year to beat is 1983, when snow storms began hitting in the Sierra around Veteran's Day and continued non-stop until Memorial Day," Gehrke says.
Gehrke says that while the survey is encouraging, the state's drought status is more complex than that.
"Surface water is kind of a seasonal thing," Gerhke says. "In other words, clearly we've made up - kind of, I guess - our seasonal deficiency, but the groundwater is a whole different kettle of fish. It's a much longer cycle, [and] it's more difficult to measure, for one thing."
Groundwater was heavily pumped during the height of the drought, leaving some basins critically low, especially in the San Joaquin Valley.
However, this year's healthy snowpack should help, as it's responsible for nearly a third of the state's annual water supply in an average year.
Another reading will be taken on April 1 to measure the snowpack again.

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