Final Snowpack Survey Set for Drought-Stricken California – NBC Los Angeles

on Apr1
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California’s wet season is coming to a close without much to show for it.

After consecutive dry months during what is historically the wettest time of year, California Department of Water Resources officials will visit Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for the final manual snowpack survey of the season.

Dismal results are expected.

After a January and February that were among the driest in state history, last month’s snowpack survey showed the statewide snowpack at just 63 percent of average for March 1. Without dry spell-busting storms to dump snow in the mountains, not much happened in March to improve conditions.

“With only one month left in California’s wet season and no major storms in the forecast, Californians should plan for a third year of drought conditions,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said after the March survey. “A significantly below-average snowpack combined with already low reservoir levels make it critical that all Californians step up and conserve water every day to help the state meet the challenges of severe drought.”

Water managers conduct a May 1 snow survey when necessary, but that seems unlikely this year.

Snowpack in the Sierra accounts for about 30 percent of California’s water supply. Understanding how much there is to work with is critical for water resources managers to plan for what’s available during the hot and dry summer months. In addition to the monthly wet season surveys at Phillips Station, where water resources officials stick a pole in the ground to measure snow-water equivalent, officials rely on data provided by a network of sensors to determine snowpack.

Snow-water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map released March 31, 2022.

Ideally, a conveyor belt of winter storms usher in rain and snow during the winter months. Mountain snow then melts closer to summer, running off into the state’s water supply system and reservoirs.

California is in its third straight dry year. The U.S. Drought Monitor report released March 31 showed all of California in some category of drought. More than 40 percent of the state was in extreme drought, the second-most severe category. That includes portions of southeast, northwest and Central California.

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