Wet winter leaves Sierra snowpack above average
Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California’s wet winter has left an above-average snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, boosting prospects for additional water deliveries to cities and farms, water officials said on Wednesday.
But the California Department of Water Resources cautioned that the winter rain and snow was not enough to fully offset three previous years of drought.
The average water content contained in the Sierra snowpack is 107 percent of normal, according to Wednesday’s snow survey, the third of five that will be conducted this winter.
Last year at this time, the water content was 80 percent of normal.
The snowpack is important because its runoff provides much of the state’s water supply in the summer.
If wet weather continues, the department says the State Water Project will be able to deliver 35 percent to 45 percent of requested amounts of water.
But the water level is not enough to end the drought, said Frank Gehrke, chief of California Snow Surveys. He explained that though the state didn’t lose any water content, it gained less than he hoped in February because there were a few weeks without snow.
“We’re kind of marching in place in terms of what it means for reservoir recovery,” Gehrke said.
Despite recent storms, the water level at Lake Oroville, the principal storage reservoir for the State Water Project, was only at 55 percent of average for this time of year.
Electronic sensor readings showed the northern Sierra snow water equivalents at 126 percent of normal, central Sierra at 93 percent, and southern Sierra at 109 percent.
“We must remember that even a wet winter will not fully offset three consecutive dry years or pumping restrictions to protect Delta fish, so we must continue to conserve and protect our water resources,” said Mark Cowin, director of the Department of Water Resources.