More storms needed for meaningful snowpack recovery in Sierra Nevada
March 13, 2018
RENO — The first weekend of March brought the biggest snow storm of the winter to Nevada and the eastern Sierra, but the Natural Resources Conservation Service reports much more is needed for a so-called March Miracle.
"Even though snowpack percentages increased across the region from the early March storm, the overall water supply picture has not changed since March 1. Snowpacks, water year precipitation and streamflow forecasts across Nevada remain well below normal," said Jeff Anderson, NRCS Nevada state hydrologist. "Excellent reservoir storage will save the water year, unless you don't have access to stored water, in which case spring precipitation will play a more critical role in when, and if, water shortages occur."
The snowpack did rise significantly with statewide snowpack percentages of normal rising from 29 to 59 percent on March 1 and 44 to 72 percent on March 5, but NRCS stated 4-5 more storms just as big as last week's would be needed to boost snowpack averages to normal by April 1. NRCS also stated that's extremely unlikely.
February was also drier than normal with just 21-29 percent of normal monthly precipitation in the Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Carson and Walker basins and 50-87 percent across the rest of northern Nevada.
Water year to date precipitation since October 1 is 53-66 percent of average in the Sierra basins and 71-80 percent across northern Nevada including the Humboldt Basin. Eastern Nevada between Austin and Ely continues to be the driest part of the state with only 47 pecent of average precipitation this year.
This is the driest start to a year in eastern Nevada since SNOTEL sites were installed in 1981.
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Streamflow forecasts are also below average across the state, ranging from 17-63 percent of average. But NRCS continued to state reservoir storage should stem summer drought concerns for water users and municipalities with rights to the stored water. NRCS also stated to expect natural streamflow to be low in the spring and summer.