SCV Water Agency: ‘Average’ snowpack is good news

Officials with the California Department of Water Resources Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section, measure snow depth Thursday. DWR photo by Ken James

State water officials trekked through the snow in the Sierra Nevadas on Thursday and found an “average” amount of snow — not too little, and not more than usual.

The Department of Water Resources carried out its first manual snow survey of 2020 this week at Phillips Station.

DWR officials recorded 33.5 inches of snow, which amounts to a snow-water equivalent  of 11 inches, which is 97% of the average amount for this location, according to a news release issued by the department.

The snow-water equivalent refers to the amount of water contained in the snowpack, which provides a more accurate forecast of spring runoff.

“This is very good news,” Bill Cooper, president of the SCV Water agency board, said Thursday. “However, the snow survey has numerous stations that together gives a better picture of water availability.”

As state water officials revealed in their announcement of the snowpack measurements, the snow found on the peaks of the Sierra Nevadas is off to a good start.

“The 97% of normal for this time is encouraging, and I would expect that as usual, the allocation will increase,” Cooper said. “Whatever allocation increases we receive will offset any water we would have to take out of our reserve banks and that would save the customers’ money.

“Let’s hope these storms continue for the next couple of months,” he added.

Officials with the DWR credited recent storms for having supplied the snow, which, when it melts, will be sent to water agencies, such as SCV Water, in Southern California.

“While the series of cold weather storms in November and December has provided a good start to the 2020 snowpack, precipitation in Northern California is still below average for this time of year,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth was quoted as saying in the news release.

“We must remember how variable California’s climate is and what a profound impact climate change has on our snowpack,” he said.

Water from the melted snow is what makes up the water sent to water agencies in Southern California via the State Water Project.

About a month ago, the DWR unveiled an initial State Water Project allocation of 10% for the 2020 calendar year, meaning SCV Water would receive only 10% of the water it’s entitled to receive.

The initial allocation was based on several factors, state officials said, such as conservative dry hydrology, reservoir storage, and releases necessary to meet water supply and environmental demands.

State allocations are based on conservative assumptions and may change, they said last month, depending on rain and snow received this winter.

The SWP provides water to 29 SWP contractors that supply water to more than 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland.

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