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State’s Snowpack Dwindles


An empty-snowless field at Echo Summit. (Dept. of Water Resources)


As this week’s above normal temperatures and wildfires probably made clear, California is very dry. Official readings taken statewide show the state’s snowpack is just 17% of normal for this time of year.

November and December helped kick-off the winter season with above normal water content, however in 2013 there has been very little accumulating snow in the Sierra and mountain ranges.

The snowpack typically provides about a third of the water used in California’s homes and farms. The DWR has not made decisions on how the low snowpack will impact water deliveries around the state.

Despite the low snowpack, storage reservoirs are near normal levels from last year’s rains, including Lake Oroville and Shasta Lake.

The Department of Water Resources make their water level readings public here.


California Department of Water Resources officials say the numbers in their snowpack survey, released Thursday, paints a “gloomy” picture for the summer water supply.

Water content found is only 52 percent of normal.

Surveyors say November and December were unusually wet, while January and February were very dry. At the end of 2012, the snowpack’s water content was 134 percent of normal. That number dropped to 68 percent by Feb. 28.

Water content is usually at its peak at this time of year, the DWS said in a news release.

For the complete survey results, click here.


Rare Warm & Dry 2013 Not Good for State’s Water Supply

February snow survey

Surveyors check the snowpack’s readings near Echo Summit in February.
Courtesy: Department of Water Resources


The drier, warmer weather may delight weekend warriors and those on an outdoor stroll, but at what cost to the state’s snowpack?

Surveyors reported Thursday that while the snowpack hasn’t actually lost much water content since January’s measurement, it hasn’t increased, and is now just 66% of average for this time of year.

Back in January, after the wet storms of November and December, the snowpack was at 134% of average. Now, those readings indicate California’s “frozen reserve” is low. The snowpack normally provides about a third of water for the state’s homes, businesses and farms.

If January and February have seemed abnormally dry, they were. The Department of Water Resources says the mountain area from Shasta Lake to the American River near Sacramento has only measured about two inches of rain this year. The next-driest January-February period was in 1991, when they had four inches of rain.

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Snow blankets I-80 during a February snowstorm, a rare sight this year.

“Near-record dry weather combined with pumping restrictions to protect Delta smelt are making this a gloomy water supply year,” said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin in a press release.

Despite the low snowpack, storage reservoirs are above normal levels. Lake Oroville is at 113% of average for this date, Shasta Lake is 107% of normal storage level.

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Dry January Brings Snowpack Below Average


File Photo.


December’s storms are a distant memory after our dry January, and the monthly snowpack survey shows it.

Snow surveyors reported water content in the mountain snowpack is now below average for this date.

Manual and electronic readings were taken today around the Sierra, and found water content to be 93% of average for the end of January. The level is at 55% of the average for April 1, when the snowpack is considered at its peak.

Measurements taken in the northern mountains, near Echo Summit off Highway 50, show slightly higher readings, at 97% of normal for the date, and 59% of the April 1 seasonal average.

As for reservoirs, Lake Oroville is at 75% of capacity and Shasta Lake is at 76%.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, the snowpack provides a third of the water for California’s homes, farms, and industries.


California Snowpack at 134% of Average


It’s no secret there is more snow in the Sierra now, than one year ago. Official measurements show the state’s water content is 134% above normal for this time of year, in fact.

The snowpack survey was done Wednesday near Echo Summit along Highway 50, and at two other locations in the central and southern Sierra.

The snowpack’s water content is normally at its peak in April, before the spring melt. It provides about a third of the water used in homes, on farms and in industries around the state.

“We are off to a good water supply start for the new year, but we have to remember that we have seen wet conditions suddenly turn dry more than once,” said DWR spokesman Ted Thomas in a press release. “We know from experience that California is a drought-prone state, and that we must always practice conservation.”

The Department of Water Resources believes they can deliver 40% of the water that has been requested for 2013. That estimate will change depending on the weather.

The wet November and December also replenished California’s reservoirs; Lake Oroville is at 113% of average for early January, and Shasta Lake is at 115% of normal for this date.