Will the water tables turn?
TWIN BRIDGES, Calif. – Under a beaming sun and 50-degree temperatures, conditions opposite of last month’s snowy visit, members of the California Cooperative Snow Survey found a similar depth and more water content compared to their December measurement in the Phillips Station snowpack.
“This is just gorgeous out here,” said Tina Cannon-Leahy, principle consultant for the state assembly’s water, parks and wildlife committee, who came out to learn how the snowpack was measured. “It’s amazing how intense it is standing in the sun for just a few minutes.”
The surveyors measured 56 inches of snow, just one-tenth more than last month, containing the equivalent of 24 inches of water. The water content is 125 percent of the long term average for the site and is a equal to a typical February measurement, according to Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Survey program.
However, with January having 13 percent of its normal precipitation, it’s still possible for this year to be below-average for the California watershed, Gehrke said.
“January was effectively a non-event. That is unfortunately the pattern of La Nina,” Gehrke said. “The real issue is whether or not we’ll lose February.”
Though the snow is not melting rapidly, he said, melting will increase as the sun reaches a more vertical angle in the sky. Runoff has already put many of the major reservoirs into flood control release mode, Gehrke said.
“Snow melting right now could mean we’re not going to have water come spring and summer when it’s most needed,” he said.
Snow totals for the entire state are at 134 percent of normal and 78 percent of the April 1 seasonal average. The mountain snowpack provides almost one-third of the water for California’s households, industry and farms as it melts into streams and reservoirs.
“We are still optimistic for a good water supply, but realize we can come up short any given year,” said Mark Cowin, Department of Water Resources Director. “Our unpredictable weather and delivery restrictions make it clear that conservation must always be one of our top priorities.”
The Department of Water Resources recently announced it will be able to meet at least 60 percent of the requested State Water Project water, already 10 percent more than last year. State Water Project water allocations may increase as the season continues.