Sierra snowpack is 188 percent of normal

California’s cities and farms can expect ample water this summer, say state officials

  • John King, water resource engineer for the California Department of Water Resources snow survey section, and Cindy Holbus from DWR, weigh the snow measurement Thursday during the fifth snow survey of the 2019 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The survey recorded 47 inches of snow at this site, which is 188 percent of average. The site is approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. (Josh Baar — California Department of Water Resources)

  • A drone provides a view Thursday of the fifth California Department of Water Resources snow survey of the 2019 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The survey recorded 47 inches of snow, which is 188 percent of average at this site. The site is approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. (Josh Baar — California Department of Water Resources)

  • Ashok Bathulla, left, water resource engineer, for the California Department of Water Resources, writes snow measurements as John King, water resource engineer, plunges the long aluminum snow depth survey pole into the snowpack Thursday. The fifth snow survey of the season recorded 47 inches of snow, which is 188 percent of average at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The site is approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. (Josh Baar — California Department of Water Resources)

  • John King, water resource engineer for the California Department of Water Resources snow survey section, plunges the long aluminum snow depth survey pole into the snow Thursday during the fifth California Department of Water Resources snow survey of the 2019 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The site is approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. (Josh Baar — California Department of Water Resources)

  • John King, water resource engineer for the California Department of Water Resources snow survey section, checks for any leftover snow in the long aluminum snow depth survey pole Thursday, before he takes another measurement during the fifth snow survey of the 2019 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The site is approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. (Josh Baar — California Department of Water Resources)

  • A drone provides a view Thursday of the fifth California Department of Water Resources snow survey of the 2019 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The survey recorded 47 inches of snow, which is 188 percent of average at this site. The site is approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. (Josh Baar — California Department of Water Resources)

  • John King, water resource engineer for the California Department of Water Resources snow survey section, plunges the long aluminum snow depth survey pole into the snow Thursday during the fifth California Department of Water Resources snow survey of the 2019 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The site is approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. (Josh Baar — California Department of Water Resources)

  • Snow runoff is seen Thursday near the California Department of Water Resources snow survey site at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The site is approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. (Josh Baar — California Department of Water Resources)

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Surveyors testing snow in the Sierra Nevada for the state’s final snow survey of the year delivered welcomed news: The snowpack is nearly double the average for this time of year, assuring summer water for the thirsty state.

On Thursday morning, Department of Water Resources surveyors weighed a tube of snow and found it held 27.7 inches of water, about 188 percent of the historical annual average for the site.

“California’s cities and farms can expect ample water supplies this summer,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth, in a prepared statement.

The 2019 snowpack reached its peak on March 31 and is the fifth largest on record, according to the California Cooperative Snow Survey Program.

The May manual measurement at the 6,800-feet granite ridge called Phillips Station near Lake Tahoe, one of dozens that will be measured, supports the findings of a much larger array of electronic sensors fixed across the Sierra, which report an average snowpack of 31 inches, 144 percent of average.

The state’s largest six reservoirs are full, holding between 96 percent of their historical average capacity at San Luis Reservoir to 128 percent at Melones Reservoir. Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir, is 93 percent full, which is 108 percent of its historical average.

“2019 has been an extremely good year in terms of snowpack,” said Jon Ericson, DWR Chief of the Division of Flood Management. “Based on our surveys, we are seeing a very dense, cold snowpack that will continue to produce run-off into late summer.”

The Sierra snowpack, dubbed California’s “frozen reservoir,” is what gets much of the Golden State through long, dry summers and autumns as melting snow fills lakes for gradual release during the dry months. It contributes about a third of California’s water when it melts.

State water leaders continue to urge efficiency, saying that water needs to percolate into the soil to restore depleted groundwater levels, rather than flushed down toilets and drains.

“It’s critical that it’s put to use replenishing groundwater basins and storage reservoirs for the next inevitable drought,” said Nemeth. “Every resident and business can also help California by using water as efficiently as possible.”

 

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