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Kings River: Snowpack

This was the view of Big Meadows in the Sequoia National Forest taken at sunrise Jan. 25 by Kings River Water Association Assistant Watermaster Matt Meadows just before the snow survey was taken. They measured 50 inches in snow depth. This contains 14.5 inches of water content which is 57 percent of the April 1 average at that location.

There are many weeks remaining in the snowpack accumulation season but the Kings River Water Association’s initial 2019 snow survey shows Feb. 1 conditions to be almost exactly normal.

The snow water content and depth measurements at eight remote stations measured by KRWA are mostly higher than last year’s readings on April 1, the date upon which seasonal snow conditions are assumed to peak.

KRWA manager Steve Haugen said the 28 member water agencies with entitlements to Kings River water are encouraged that the entire southern Sierra Nevada snow index to date is average.

“The fact is we have a long way to go,” Haugen said. “The key with every snow and rain season is future storm activity and precipitation.”

Other agencies in the Kings River watershed taking part in the Feb. 1 California Cooperative Snow Survey had not completed work by the morning of Jan. 29.

The Department of Water Resources is expected to issue its first 2019 Sierra Nevada river runoff forecasts early in February.

KRWA’s eight course measurements had snow depths averaging 55.4 inches with snowpack water content averaging 16.9 inches, 65 percent of the April 1 average. That is normal for Feb. 1.

On April 1, 2018, during what turned out to be a 75 percent of average Kings River water runoff year, the snow water content average was 53 percent.

The best overall snow conditions KRWA found were at remote Scenic Meadow, in the Roaring River drainage. There, the snowpack’s water content was found to be 71 percent of the crucial April 1 average. The greatest snow depth - 67 inches - was found at Mitchell Meadow at an elevation of 9,900 feet. Mitchell Meadow’s snow water content amounted to 23 inches.

KRWA reported its surveys were completed Jan. 25. A weak storm moving in Jan. 29 could produce the first Sierra snowfall since KRWA’s surveys were taken. The eight courses measured by KRWA are all within watersheds of Kings River’s South and Middle forks.

The Kings River Water Association administers the Kings River’s water entitlements, storage, deliveries and agreements for 28 member agencies that serve one million acres in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties.

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