Scientist track snow surveying at Tahoe resort |

Scientist track snow surveying at Tahoe resort

Snow surveys and water supply forecasting don’t create water, but they do the next best thing — they provide tools for conserving the lifeblood of our region.

At Granlibakken in Tahoe City last week, scientists, engineers, and technicians from 12 states convened at the resort’s conference center for training on snow sampling, recognizing avalanche danger, outdoor emergency care and other skills.

The school was conducted and coordinated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service from the Water Climate Center in Portland.

“About 75 percent of the water in the West comes from melting snow — a resource that impacts our everyday lives,” NRCS spokeswoman Shelby Gatlin said.

The water supply is so variable, yet predictable, that the NRCS has directed the federal-state-private cooperative snow survey and water supply forecasting program since 1935 to help water users obtain accurate water supply information.

Water supply forecasting is a powerful tool for reducing the devastating effects of flood and drought, Gatlin said.

“Major sectors of the economy — agriculture, industry, recreation and government — base their water management plans on the NRCS water supply forecasts,” she said. “A dependable supply of reasonably priced water is essential to maintain a high quality of life.”

NRCS collects snowpack and related climatic information manually and through an automated system called SNOTEL (for Snowpack Telemetry). Unlike satellite systems, SNOTEL bounces radio signals off millions of meteorite trails.

The SNOTEL’s automated sensing and data transmission technology and the Centralized Forecasting System allow real time data to be readily accessible. The Tahoe City class trained the scientists, technicians and engineers in the SNOTEL technology.

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