Adam Jensen: Snow survey finds one long summer ahead |

Adam Jensen: Snow survey finds one long summer ahead

The numbers are in on the Sierra Nevada winter, and they’re not surprising, but somehow they’ve still managed to be shocking.

Snow surveyors announced Wednesday that California’s snowpack holds just 5 percent of its typical water content for this time of year. The previous low for April 1 was 25 percent in 2014 and 1977, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

The findings will make for a long summer in the state, with upcoming months tempered with responsibility when it comes to water.

California Gov. Jerry Brown came to Echo Summit, near Lake Tahoe’s South Shore, Wednesday to announce the state’s first-ever statewide mandatory water reductions. Brown ordered the state water board to implement measures that cut water usage by 25 percent, according to an article from the Associated Press.

“Brown’s order also will require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to significantly cut water use; order local governments to replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought-tolerant landscaping; and create a temporary rebate program for consumers who replace old water-sucking appliances with more efficient ones,” according to the article.

The snow survey where Brown made the announcement found no snow at the Phillips snow course. It was the first time in 75 years of early April surveys at the site where no snow was found.

“When DWR conducted the first three manual surveys on December 30, January 29 and March 3, the statewide water content in the snowpack was 50 percent, 25 percent and 19 percent respectively of the historical averages for those dates,” according to a press release from the Department of Water Resources. “The decline reflects California’s significantly lower precipitation and the warming trend that made this winter the warmest in the state’s recorded history. What precipitation there was fell mostly as rain due to warmer temperatures.”

While the drought is certainly having impacts on recreation at Lake Tahoe, from early closings of ski resorts to low lake levels, the water shortage will have further-reaching impacts around the state in months to come. It’s up to everyone to use water wisely.

“Today’s survey underscores the severity of California’s drought,” said Mark Cowin, director of the Department of Water Resources, in the release. “Water conservation must become a way of life during the worst drought in most Californians’ lifetimes.”

Adam Jensen is the editor of Lake Tahoe Action. He can be reached at

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