First snow survey of the year shows wet conditions
|Frank Gehrke, chief of snow surveys for the Department of Water Resources, conducts the first snow survey of the year at Echo Summit Wednesday, Jan. 2. The survey showed the snow pack in that area to be 48.6 inches deep with a water content of 12.1 inches, which is 101 percent of normal for this site at this time of year. Photo submitted|
Jan. 8, 2013 — Snow surveyors reported water content in California’s snowpack is well above average.
According to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) manual and electronic readings for on Jan. 2 record the snowpack’s statewide water content at 134 percent of average for this time of year. This is 49 percent of the average April 1 measurement, when the snowpack is normally at its peak before the spring melt.
The snowpack normally provides about a third of the water for the California’s homes, farms and industries as it slowly melts into streams, reservoirs and aquifiers in the spring and early summer.
“We are off to a good water supply start for the new year, but we have to remember that we have seen wet conditions suddenly turn dry more than once,” said DWR spokesman Ted Thomas. “We know from experience that California is a drought-prone state and that we must always practice conservation.
Electronic readings indicate the water content in the northern mountains is 133 percent of normal for the date and 50 percent of the April 1 seasonal average. Electronic readings for the central Sierra also show 133 percent of normal for the date and half the April 1 average. The numbers for the southern Sierra are 131 percent of average for the date and 44 percent of the April 1 average.
DWR and cooperating agencies conduct manual snow surveys around the first of the month from January to May. The manual measurements supplement and check the accuracy of real-time electronic readings from sensors up and down the state.
DWR is currently estimating it will be able to deliver 40 percent of the slightly more than 4 million-acre-feet of State Water Project water requested for this calendar year by the 29 public agencies that supply more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland.
The delivery estimate is expected to increase as more winter storms develop. The final allocation of the State Water Project water in calendar year 2012 was 65 percent of requested deliveries. The allocation was 80 percent in 2011, 50 percent in 2010, 40 percent of 2009 and 35 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in 2007.
The last 100 percent allocation, which is difficult to achieve even in wet years because of restriction on Delta export pumping to protect sensitive fish species — was in 2006.
In addition to above average water content in the snowpack, early storms this season have replenished California’s reservoirs.
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