Snowpack well above normal, survey finds. | NevadaAppeal.com
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Snowpack well above normal, survey finds.

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — From the northern tip of the Sierra Nevada to Southern California, back-to-back December storms have dumped massive amounts of snow, building a solid snow pack that is well above normal.

The snow pack in California is between 138 percent and 192 percent of normal for this time of the year, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

However, department officials warn that continued snowfall is needed over the next couple of months to ensure California builds up an adequate water supply.

About 35 percent of the state’s drinking and irrigation water comes from the pack. In addition, snow-fed hydroelectric plants produce about a quarter of California’s power.

“It’s only the beginning of January, and we have most of our precipitation season still ahead of us,” said Dave Hart, an engineering associate for the department’s Cooperative Snow Survey Program. “Right now, we are only about half way there.”

Hart and other surveyors hiked to Echo Summit near Lake Tahoe Friday to examine the snow pack, which rang in at 53 inches.

The snow pack at Echo Summit holds about 15.7 inches of water — 130 percent of normal — which is slightly less than last year at this time, Hart said.

Monthly mountain snow pack measurements help forecast California’s water outlook during the summer.

In Northern California, the average snow pack water content comes in at 21 inches, about 192 percent of normal, based on data gathered by the department’s automated snow sensors. And in Southern California, an average 13 inches of snow pack water content so far pushes the average to 138 percent of normal.

That’s good news for ski resorts, but it’s even better news for farmers, said California Farm Bureau Federation spokesman Bob Krauter.

“We’ve had some generous storms recently,” Krauter said. “It’s very important that we have a healthy Sierra snow pack to provide water for our farms.”

However, despite the better-than-normal snow pack, Krauter said more snow is needed in coming months to build an adequate water supply.

“Even in normal rainfall years, we don’t have enough water in California to satisfy the demand,” he said. “We still have a long way to go.”

So far, California’s snow pack has reached about 47 percent of normal in Southern California and 74 percent of normal in Northern California for the year, which ends April 1.