April 4, 2012 | Back to: News

Tahoe snowpack: Wet March can't make up for dry winter

LAKE TAHOE — It wasn’t a “Miracle March,” but last month’s snowfall was somewhat better than expected after a drier-than-average winter.

“The water content we just measured is down in the lower 10 percent of years,” said Frank Gehrke, chief of California Cooperative Snow Surveys, at Monday’s monthly snow measurement in Meyers. “But clearly we’re making an improvement over March’s measurements.”

Monday’s snow survey showed the snowpack had 31 inches of depth and 11 inches of water content, just 39 percent of the long-term average for the station. Across California, the snowpack has 55 percent of the April 1 average, according to a statement released by the Department of Water Resources.

“The take-home message is that we’ve had a dry winter and, although good reservoir storage will lessen impacts this summer, we need to be prepared for a potentially dry 2013,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin in the statement.

Gehrke said the recent snowfall will slow down the spring runoff, making it easier for water managers to plan for the year ahead.

“It really knocks the edge off the melt,” he said. “If it comes off slowly and gradually it’s a better circumstance.”

April is typically a low snowfall month, he added.

The mountain snowpack normally provides about one third of the water for California’s households, industries and farms.

Due to runoff from last winter, California reservoir storage is more than 100 percent of average for the date.

DWR estimates that it will be able to deliver 50 percent of the more than 4 million acre-feet requested this year. Last year, the agency was able to deliver 80 percent of the water requested.

The final survey of the season will take place on May 1.

Dylan Silver
Tahoe Daily Tribune


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Apr 4, 2012 03:23PM Published Apr 4, 2012 03:22PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.