Environment & Science

Snow survey could be the lowest on record since 1991

The California Department of Water Resources on Tuesday will carry out the winter's third survey of the Sierra Nevada's snowpack, which shows no signs of recovery.
The California Department of Water Resources on Tuesday will carry out the winter's third survey of the Sierra Nevada's snowpack, which shows no signs of recovery.
Photo by Anirudh Rao via Flickr Creative

California's third snow survey this winter found the Sierra Nevada snowpack is far below normal and leaning toward being the lowest on record in more than two decades.

The survey on Tuesday found a snowpack water equivalent of just 0.9 inches in the snowpack near Echo Summit, about 90 miles east of Sacramento.

This measurement shows a trend of declining water content in the snowpack. During the January snow measurement, the survey found a snowpack water equivalent of 2.3 inches.

The scant pack amounted to just 5 percent of the long-term average for this time of year at the survey spot. That's down from 12 percent in the last survey.

The snowpack supplies about a third of the water needed by state residents, agriculture and industry.

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, said there were 6.7 inches of snow on the ground at the survey spot on Tuesday.

Gehrke said the snowpack was comparable to 1991.

9 a.m.: Department of Water Resources to release snowpack survey

The California Department of Water Resources on Tuesday will carry out the winter's third survey of the Sierra Nevada's snowpack, which shows no signs of recovery.

Measurements at an elevation of about 6,800 feet about 90 miles east of Sacramento will begin Tuesday morning. Results are expected by early afternoon, the department said.

The season's first two manual surveys on Dec. 30 and Jan. 29 found a below-normal snowpack.

Recent electronic readings have revealed a trend of declining water content in the snowpack this wet season.

The statewide water content on Thursday was just 19 percent of the historical average for the date, the department said.

State officials on Tuesday will also release the first water use report card since residents met Gov. Jerry Brown's call to slash consumption by 20 percent in December, which was a rainy month.

The data help monitor the effectiveness of the state's emergency conservation regulations. The state is urging continued conservation as California enters the fourth year of a drought.

This story has been updated.