Snow survey prompts ‘cautious optimism'

Current manual and electronic readings indicate that water content in California’s mountain snowpack is 115 percent of normal for the date statewide. This time last year, snow water content was 61 percent of normal statewide.

“Today’s snow survey offers us some cautious optimism as we continue to play catch-up with our statewide water supplies,” said DWR Chief Deputy Director Sue Sims. “We are still looking at the real possibility of a fourth dry year. Even if California is blessed with a healthy snowpack, we must learn to always conserve this finite resource so that we have enough water for homes, farms, and businesses in 2010 and in the future.”

Lake Oroville, the principal storage reservoir for the State Water Project (SWP) is at 33 percent of capacity, and 50 percent of average storage for this time of year. Lake Shasta, the principal storage reservoir for the federal Central Valley Project, is at 56 percent of capacity, and 82 percent of average for the date.

DWR’s early allocation estimate was that the agency would only be able to deliver 5 percent of requested SWP water this year, reflecting low storage levels, ongoing drought conditions, and environmental restrictions on water deliveries to protect fish species.

The agency will recalculate the allocation after current snow survey results and other conditions are evaluated. Results of today’s manual survey by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) off Highway 50 near Echo Summit are as follows:

Location Elevation Snow Depth Water Content % of Long Term Average
Alpha 7,600 feet 69.3 inches 20.3 inches 96
Phillips Station 6,800 feet 62.6 inches 20.3 inches 106
Lyons Creek 6,700 feet 78.2 inches 22.9 inches 117
Tamarack Flat 6,500 feet 67.8 inches 20.2 inches 106

Electronic sensor readings show northern Sierra snow water equivalents at 129 percent of normal for this date, central Sierra at 101 percent, and southern Sierra at 119 percent. The sensor readings are posted at

DWR estimates that fishery agency restrictions on Delta pumping adopted in the past year to protect Delta smelt, salmon, and other species could reduce annual deliveries of State Water Project water by 30 percent.

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 to gauge the amount of water in the snowpack.

TAGS: Management
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.