April snow survey

John King, water resource engineer for the California Department of Water Resources Snow Survey Section, inserts the aluminum snow depth survey pole into the Sierra Nevada snow during the fourth survey of the water year. The survey was held approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo taken April 2, 2019.

With light snow falling Tuesday, the Department of Water Resources conducted the fourth Phillips Station snow survey of 2019 and continued the string of good news.

The manual survey — taken at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada near Sierra-at-Tahoe — recorded 106.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 51 inches, which is 200 percent of average for this location.

Chris Orrock, DWR information officer, said this is the fourth-best snow water content the location has historically recorded.

Statewide, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is 162 percent of average for this date.

Officials said California has experienced more than 30 atmospheric rivers since the start of the water year, with six in February alone, and statewide snow water equivalent has nearly tripled since Feb. 1.

Snow water equivalent is the depth of water that theoretically would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously. It is an important tool used by water managers across the state to estimate anticipated spring runoff.

“With full reservoirs and a dense snowpack, this year is practically a California water supply dream,” said Karla Nemeth, DWR director. “However, we know our long-term water supply reliability cannot rely on annual snowpack alone. It will take an all-of-the-above approach to build resiliency for the future.”

Snowpack is an important factor in determining how DWR manages California’s water resources each year to meet demands.

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On average, the Sierra snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs (including in Kings County) as it melts into streams and reservoirs in the spring and early summer to meet water demands throughout the year.

DWR conducts up to five snow surveys each winter at Phillips Station – near the first of January, February, March, April and May.

The April results are a key indicator for the rest of the year’s water supply, officials said. The snowpack’s water content typically peaks around April 1, after which the sun’s higher position in the sky begins to accelerate snow melt.

The state’s largest six reservoirs currently hold between 106% (Oroville) and 132% (Melones) of their historical averages for this date. Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface reservoir, is 109% of its historical average and sits at 89% of capacity.

Thunderstorms hit across the Central Valley and parts of the Sierra Nevada and foothills on Tuesday, bringing mostly light rainfall with a few heavy showers.

According to Scott Borgioli, chief meteorologist for WeatherAg, Hanford has received 7.38 inches of rainfall this year, which is 82% of the annual average of 8.94 inches.

Currently, none of the state is in an official drought. Borgioli said this is a massive improvement from just 90 days ago when 75% of the state was in an official drought.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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