The manual survey at Phillips Station, south of Lake Tahoe, recorded 56 inches of snow depth which translates to 21 inches of water. The measurement is 86% of the average for Phillips Station, but statewide the numbers are more grim, showing California’s overall snowpack was 61% of the historical March 2 average, and 54% of the average on April 1, when it is historically at its maximum.
“As California closes out the fifth consecutive dry month of our water year, absent a series of strong storms in March or April we are going to end with a critically dry year on the heels of last year’s dry conditions,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said. “With back-to-back dry years, water efficiency and drought preparedness are more important than ever for communities, agriculture and the environment.”
Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada accounts for roughly 30% of California’s water supply.
“The less snowpack we have, the less water we have to use for everything from late spring, summer and early fall,” said Chris Orrock, a California Department of Water Resources official.
He says California gets the majority of its rain from December through February, and sometimes in March. For the second straight year, there hasn’t been much of it.
“We basically only received one or two storms in California for the whole year,” he told Eyewitness News.
In order for California to reach its average snowpack for the season, Orrock says 9-11 inches of rain would have to fall in the next few weeks, which is unlikely but would cause serious problems if it occurred.
“Right now, we’re seeing our ground is very dry and very hard so if we do get a large storm, that could lead to localized flooding,” said Orrock.
But history shows those kinds of storms probably won’t come this late in the season, which leads Orrock to warn of possible drought conditions in the near future.
“This year is looking critically dry,” he said. “If we continue on this dry, we will be talking more about drought conditions in California.”
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