Snow survey near Lake Tahoe finds California water nearly doubled
PHILLIPS STATION, Calif. — California cities and farms can expect ample water supplies this summer after winter storms blanketed the Sierra Nevada, nearly doubling the snowpack average for this time of year, state water officials said Thursday.
The fifth and final survey of the season at Phillips Station recorded 47 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 27.5 inches, the Department of Water Resources said. That’s 188% of average for the location near Lake Tahoe.
Just four years ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown found a field at Phillips Station barren of any measureable snow amid an historic drought.
The April 1 measurement, which is typically the largest and is used by the state to make decisions about water supplies, measured 106.5 inches and 51 inches of snow water content. Snow water equivalent is the depth of water that theoretically would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously.
The amount of snow is measured monthly through winter and spring at more than 260 locations to help managers plan for how much they can deliver to customers later in the year.
The snowpack feeds California reservoirs and supplies about 30% of the state’s water needs. This year it is especially dense, officials said, and will produce runoff into late summer.
Increased runoff brings a slight risk of localized flooding and minor debris flows, especially in areas scorched by recent wildfires, said DWR spokesman Chris Orrock.
Blizzards pounded the Sierra Nevada all winter, burying the towering mountain range in massive amounts of snow. On the eastern side of the range, for example, the Mammoth Mountain resort reported nearly 57 feet of snow at the summit during the season.