DWR announces snow survey results

Results of the January 3, 2008, snow survey by the California Department of Water Resources off Highway 50 near Echo Summit are as follows:

Location; Elevation; Snow Depth; Water Content; % of Long Term Avg.

Echo Summit; 7,450 feet; 26 inches; 7.8 inches; 63

Lake Audrain; 7,300 feet; 30.3 inches; 9.7 inches; 70

Phillips Station; 6,800 feet; 29.2 inches; 7.3 inches; 60

Tamarack Flat; 6,500 feet; 28.9 inches; 7.1 inches; 61

Today’s survey was the first of the 2007-2008 snowfall season. Although readings show the snowpack at below normal levels for the date … rain, snow and wind were predicted for Northern California starting late yesterday, with precipitation expected all day today. The Central Valley forecast calls for several inches of rain, while at least five feet of snow is expected in high Sierra elevations.

Arthur Hinojosa, Chief of DWR’s Hydrology Branch, says Sierra snow levels are expected to begin at 6000 feet and drop to below 4000 feet through the weekend with another weaker system forecast across Northern California early next week.

“The pending storms should provide the state with a much needed helping of snow,” said Hinojosa. “We hope to get close to the January average precipitation for the Northern Sierra over the next week.”

The next survey will take place in approximately one month. DWR’s Public Affairs Office will issue a news advisory when the February date is confirmed.

In addition to this single manually measured site, reporters can find real-time readings of statewide water content posted on the Internet at http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow/DLYSWEQ.

Electronic sensor readings show Northern Sierra snow water equivalents at 64 percent of normal for this date, Central Sierra at 53 percent, and Southern Sierra at 69 percent. Statewide, the percentage of normal is 60.

Snow-water content is important in determining the year's water supply. The measurements help hydrologists prepare water supply forecasts as well as provide others, such as hydroelectric power companies and the recreation industry, with much needed data.

The surveys are particularly significant this year because last year’s snowpack yielded only 30 percent of the normal water content. Reservoirs are low, as well, with Lake Oroville holding only 35 percent of its 3.5 million acre foot capacity, 55 percent of average for this time of year. Because less-than-normal water supply conditions exist, the initial State Water Project allocation for 2008 was placed at 25 percent of water contractors’ requested amounts.

Monitoring is coordinated by the Department of Water Resources as part of the multi-agency California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program. Surveyors from more than 50 agencies and utilities visit hundreds of snow measurement courses in California’s mountains each month to gauge the amount of water in the snowpack.

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