Water report shows slight improvement
There is good news concerning snowpack and the prospects of a better water season than last year.
The news, however, may be defined by levels of degrees rather than by a resounding response from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s January water supply report, which was released earlier this month.
In its summary, the USDA said “without exception, the snowpack is much better than last year at this time.”
The bad news, though, is the Sierra and eastern Nevada basins are “well below normal both in terms of snow and precipitation.” As a result, Lahontan and Rye Patch reservoirs are at 5 percent capacity, while Lake Tahoe’s water level is below its natural rim.
Due to Lake Tahoe’s drop in water, streamflows forecasts for the Truckee, Carson and Walker basins are estimated to be between 40-70 percent of average from March through July. The report states Lake Tahoe must gain at least six inches before outflow can resume into the Truckee River.
Soil moisture, meanwhile, is “near normal or better” throughout the state.
Thanks to rain in November and December, soil levels have climb to 44 percent compared to 25 percent last year. According to the report, values in the Truckee, Carson and Lake Tahoe basins are “two to three times” better than last winter.
As for snowpack, the report states the Truckee, Carson and Walker basins are at about 63-68 percent of normal and the disparity from other regions in the state is due to warmer storms.
Those storms left little snow below 8,000 feet and since Jan. 1, snowpack percentages have dropped.
As a result, the summary of the report concludes, “At this point, sage advice is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”
Precipitation levels are down for the third year as snow telemetry (SNOTEL) stations throughout the state and Sierra Mountains have recorded significant declines.
According to the report, 30-40 inches of “missed” precipitation — totaling about one year’s worth — was recorded in the Sierra, while as much as 70 inches at Leavitt Lake in the Walker Basin.
Since Oct. 1 in the Sierra and eastern Nevada, precipitation has been about 60-70 percent of average.