WEST LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The state’s snowpack is 193% of the average for this time of year, according to the second snow survey of the season conducted by the California Department of Water Resources Wednesday.
“Our snowpack is off to an incredible start, and it’s exactly what California needs to really help break from our ongoing drought,” said Sean de Guzman, manager of snow surveys and water supply forecasting for the state during a Facebook Live webcast from the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Following nine atmospheric rivers that swept through the state from December through January, the state’s snowpack is outpacing 1982 and 1983, which were the wettest years on record dating back 40 years, de Guzman said.
The state’s snowpack showed a snow depth of 88.5 inches and a snow water content of 33.5 inches Wednesday. The snow’s water content, or the amount of liquid water contained in the snow if it were to melt, is a critical number for water managers.
The department uses that data to predict the spring and summer runoff that determines its water supply forecast for the coming year. About one-third of the state’s water supply comes from snowpack runoff.
“It’s too soon to tell if this busts the drought in California,” Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said. It’s too soon to tell if the agency will change its water allocations for the year, she added.
While Wednesday’s measurement at Phillips Station was 193% of the average for this time of year, it was 137% of the average for April 1, when snowpack is at its peak in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
California’s wettest months are typically December through February.
Phillips Station is one of over 260 snow courses throughout the state the department measures each winter and early spring to determine how much water will melt and runoff to reservoirs in the warmer months.