Nevada water supply average despite wet December, El Nino
RENO — Despite two stormy weeks in December and the lingering effects of a moderate El Nino, the Sierra snowpack is just about where it was last January in what turned out to be a third consecutive dry winter.
The new snowpack report tempered enthusiastic predictions that the area was near an end to its long drought.
“While the wet start to the winter for western Nevada shows promise, this area had a similar start last year,” the National Weather Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service said in a monthly report.
“With a large soil moisture deficit to overcome and the main snow-producing months ahead of us, caution should be used this early in the season on the western side of the state. For the rest of Nevada the early look is for more of the same — low streamflow and not enough water to meet all user needs.”
While El Nino spawned a series of storms that left up to 20 feet of snow in parts of the Sierra and produced twice the average December precipitation in the mountains and western Nevada, the eastern part of the state remained below average.
Most forecasters are predicting that El Nino will continue to affect the Sierra and parts of Nevada into the spring, but state climatologist John James, who is not an advocate of the phenomenon’s effects, isn’t so sure.
“It looks a lot like the end of last year,” he said. “It’s hit and miss and right now, we have a dry period ahead.” No major storms appear on the horizon.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska shows a sliver of western Nevada along the Sierra as abnormally dry and a band east of that in a moderate drought. The rest of the state is in severe drought with the southern tip suffering from extreme drought.
“While the rest of the state got some of the storms, they missed southern Nevada entirely,” James said.
The outlook said that given current conditions, runoff in western Nevada, which provides most of the area’s water for drinking and agricultural use, will be slightly above normal and the rest of the state generally will be 70 percent of normal.
On the Net:
Natural Resources Conservation Service: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov
U.S. Drought Monitor: http://drought.unl.edu/dm