The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) will conduct its third snow survey of the season at 11 a.m., Wednesday, March 3, near Lake Tahoe.
Phillips Station at Highway 50 and Sierra at Tahoe Road, about 90 miles east of Sacramento, is the manual survey location. Reporters and photographers should take snowshoes or cross-country skis and park vehicles along Highway 50.
Snow depth and water content figures should be available by 1 p.m. This survey is the third of five monthly winter measurements that help water supply planners estimate the amount of spring snowmelt runoff into reservoirs.
California’s snowpack water content is particularly significant this year because the state has endured three years of drought and reservoirs are low. Because less-than normal water supply conditions exist, the State Water Project (SWP) allocation for calendar year 2010 has been placed at only 15 percent of water contractors’ requested amounts. The results of this survey will impact future allocations. Electronic sensors indicate that statewide, snowpack water content currently is 106 percent of normal for the date. A more critical number, however, is the snow water content on April 1, the normal date of optimum snowpack.
In addition to the drought, regulatory restrictions to protect native fish species are impacting State Water Project deliveries.
Regardless of snowpack conditions, it is clear that water deliveries through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will remain in jeopardy because of regulatory uncertainty. DWR is working towards a comprehensive solution that must include additional water storage and alternate conveyance. These measures would increase water supply reliability for farms and businesses, and benefit fisheries. Alternate conveyance would allow water deliveries, while avoiding pumping hazards to the most sensitive fish species.