California’s Snowpack Above Average for April

California’s Snowpack Above Average for April

A person uses skis downtown as snow continues to fall during a powerful multiple day winter storm in the Sierra Nevada mountains, in Truckee, Calif., on March 3, 2024. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

4/3/2024

Updated: 4/8/2024

California water officials reported an above-average snowpack on April 2 after several winter storms brought abundant water to the state this year.
But it may be too soon to know whether climate change will foil the positive water supply gains, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources.
The department recorded 64 inches of snow on April 2—about 5.3 feet—during its fourth snowpack survey this year at Phillips Station, a small community at an altitude of nearly 6,900 feet near South Lake Tahoe.
The measurement was 113 percent of average for the location for the date, the department reported.
A statewide survey shows snowpack levels at 110 percent of the April 1 average, a significant improvement from just 28 percent on Jan. 1, according to the department.
“It’s great news that the snowpack was able to catch up in March from a dry start this year,” the department’s director, Karla Nemeth, said in a statement.
Ms. Nameth said she thinks California’s swing from dry to wet conditions within a season “shows once again how our climate is shifting.”
“These swings make it crucial to maintain conservation while managing the runoff,” she said. “Variable climate conditions could result in less water runoff into our reservoirs. 100 percent snowpack does not mean 100 percent runoff.”
Capturing and storing water during wetter years remains a key priority, she added.
The department will now shift to forecasting spring snowmelt runoff and capturing as much of that water as possible for future use, the department said, adding that California’s reservoirs are currently in good shape.
The State Water Project—made up of 34 reservoirs and lakes, 701 miles of aqueducts, five power plants, and 24 pumping plants—has increased storage by 700,000 acre-feet at Lake Oroville and 154,000 acre-feet at San Luis Reservoir since Jan. 1. One acre-foot of water is about 326,000 gallons.
“California has had two years of relatively positive water conditions, but that is no reason to let our guard down now,” Michael Anderson, state climatologist with the water resources department, said. “With three record-setting multi-year droughts in the last 15 years and warmer temperatures, a well above-average snowpack is needed to reach average runoff.”
Visitors walk as snow falls in the Grant Grove of giant sequoia trees during a storm in Kings Canyon National Park, Calif., on Feb. 1, 2024. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Visitors walk as snow falls in the Grant Grove of giant sequoia trees during a storm in Kings Canyon National Park, Calif., on Feb. 1, 2024. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Gov. Gavin Newsom attended the snowpack survey to promote the state’s updated water plan, which he said will protect water supplies from the “climate crisis” while boosting the state’s ability to capture and store water for when dry conditions return.
“In the face of the climate crisis, the Newsom Administration is continuing to take action to protect water supplies when it’s dry and to capture more water during wet seasons,” his office said in a statement. “In the past few years alone, we’ve gone from extreme drought to some of the most intense rain and snow seasons on record—showcasing the need for us to constantly adapt to how we manage our water supplies.”
The state expects to capture more water, store it in reservoirs, replenish and recharge groundwater aquifers, protect against floods, and more with the new plan.
California has come under fire in recent years for allowing billions of gallons of water to run off into the Pacific Ocean during heavy winter storms while still restricting residential water use.
A new report released in February by the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit water think tank based in Oakland, California, revealed that the state’s lack of infrastructure leads to nearly 740 billion gallons of stormwater being washed out to sea every year.
Mr. Newsom’s administration has spent nearly $9 billion in water investments over the past three years, according to his office.
The state has also expanded water supply and storage of groundwater by more than 400 billion gallons, streamlined projects to spur new water infrastructure, and started large-scale environmental restoration, including removal of four dams on the Klamath River, according to the governor’s office.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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