State entering summer with below average snowpack

Sean de Guzman, (right) chief of California Department of Water Resource, Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section, and Andy Reising, water resource engineer, DWR Snow Survey Section and Water Supply Forecast Section, conducts the final snow survey of the 2020 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on April 30.


The California Department of Water Resources conducted its final manual snow survey of the season on Thursday and found that storms in March and April weren’t enough to offset a dry start to the year.

The nearest survey was conducted at Phillips Station near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada. The snow depth at the location was 1.5 inches, with a snow water equivalent of 0.5 inches, which is 3 percent of the May average for the location.

Statewide, the snowpack’s water equivalent is 8.4 inches, or 37 percent of the May average. 

Snow water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack and helps water managers more accurately forecast for spring runoff.

“The last two weeks have seen increased temperatures leading to a rapid reduction of the snowpack,” said Sean De Guzman, chief of DWR’s snow survey and water supply forecast section, in a press release. “Snowmelt runoff into the reservoirs is forecasted to be below average.”

The water year started with dry conditions in October and November, followed by precipitation in December that measured 120 percent of average. Dry conditions returned in January and February, with March and April storms leading to the snowpack peaking at just 66 percent of its average on April 9.

The snowpack typically supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs when it melts in the spring and summer.

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