Just in time for summer, when water demand is at its highest, water officials are predicting an ample amount of water supply to people and farms this year based on Sierra Nevada snowpack levels.
“2019 has been an extremely good year in terms of snowpack,” said Jon Ericson, chief of the Division of Flood Management for the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). “Based on our surveys, we are seeing a very dense, cold snowpack that will continue to produce run-off into late summer.”
Thursday, the DWR conducted the fifth and final snow survey of 2019 at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada, just off Highway 50 near Sierra-at-Tahoe.
The manual survey recorded 47 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 27.5 inches, which is 188% of average for this location.
Snow water equivalent is the depth of water that theoretically would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously.
Statewide, California’s snowpack sits at 31 inches of snow water equivalent, which is 144% of average for this time of year.
The readings help hydrologists forecast spring and summer snow melt runoff into rivers and reservoirs. The melting snow supplies approximately one-third of the water used by Californians, including here in Kings County through the Kings River’s many channels, ditches and canals.
"California’s cities and farms can expect ample water supplies this summer,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said. “But it’s critical that it’s put to use replenishing groundwater basins and storage reservoirs for the next inevitable drought.”
Nemeth encourages every resident and business to help California by using water as efficiently as possible.
The snowpack’s water content is the most important factor for water managers and hydrologists to measure because it is tied directly to water supply. Water content, however, varies from year to year depending on the air temperature and intensity and amount of precipitation.
April 1 is typically the height of the year’s snow water content. However, it is not until late spring and early summer when the intense sunshine becomes the key factor in snow melt and run-off.
According to DWR officials, the 2019 snowpack reached its peak on March 31 and is the fifth largest on record, based on more than 250 manual snow surveys conducted each month by the California Cooperative Snow Survey Program.
Both rain and snowpack runoff feed California’s reservoirs. The state’s largest six reservoirs currently hold between 96% (San Luis) and 128% (Melones) of their historical averages for this date.
Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface reservoir, is 108% of its historical average and sits at 93% of capacity.
Dusty Ference, Kings County Farm Bureau executive director said this year’s snowpack is definitely a positive for Kings County growers.
“We should have a long water run, meaning growers will have more surface water available for a longer period of time which should decrease the area's dependence on groundwater this summer,” Ference said.