A snow surveyor takes a measurement on Wednesday in the Sierra Nevadas. California Department of Water Resources

A survey of mountain snowpack has revealed below-average water content.

Storms cruising in from the El Niño-inflamed Pacific have given California wet, wonderful slaps of precipitation. In January, snowpack in the mountains swelled to its thickest point in 5 years, and more recently heavy rains breathed life into dry basins, as illustrated in this two-year comparison of the state’s biggest reservoir, Lake Shasta:

And yet it still hasn’t been enough agua to raise the state out of drought. Yesterday a team of surveyors from the California Department of Water Resources measured snowpack in the mountains east of Sacramento, and it came up lacking. The agency writes:

Rainfall at the Northern California stations monitored by DWR was impressive in March—more than 16 inches, almost two and one-half times the month’s average. While the rainfall was encouraging, the snowpack hasn’t kept pace. Frank Gehrke’s of DWR’s snow survey team reported about average water content at Phillips Station on March 30. The statewide content was just 87 percent of average for the date. “The effects of previous dry years will remain for now,” he said. In other words, California still has drought conditions

Healthy snowpack is crucial because when it disintegrates in warmer months, the meltwater replenishes reservoirs that serve citizens and the state’s massive agricultural industry. But while 87 percent of average isn’t the best news, it’s a heck of a lot better than the previous situation. The survey team performed their measurements at a place called Phillips Station—here’s that same spot on April 1, 2015. See any snow at all?

California Department of Water Resources

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Coronavirus

    Why Asian Countries Have Succeeded in Flattening the Curve

    To help flatten the curve in the Covid-19 outbreak, officials at all levels of government are asking people to stay home. Here's what’s worked, and what hasn't.

  2. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  3. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

  4. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.
    Coronavirus

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

  5. Equity

    We'll Need To Reopen Our Cities. But Not Without Making Changes First.

    We must prepare for a protracted battle with coronavirus. But there are changes we can make now to prepare locked-down cities for what’s next.

×