Recent winter storms have provided a much-needed boost to California snowpack that is expected to help reinvigorate some of the state’s reservoirs, water officials said on Friday.
The total snow water equivalent — the amount of water stored in snowpack — is about 44.7 inches, or 190 percent of the average for this date, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
“Thankfully the recent storms combined with the January atmospheric rivers have contributed to an above-average snowpack that will help fill some of the state’s reservoirs and maximize groundwater recharge efforts,” Karla Nemeth, the department’s director, said in a statement.
Nonetheless, Nemeth warned that the benefits vary on a regional basis and that the state is far from out of the woods at this point.
“It will also take more than one good year to begin recovery of the state’s groundwater basins,” she said.
Statewide snowpack has climbed to levels that are just below the record snow year of 1982-1983, according to the department.
With different areas showing more promising results than others, the Northern Sierra is currently at 136 percent of its April 1 average. The Southern Sierra, on the other hand, has reached 209 percent of its April average, the agency noted.
The Department of Water Resources said it is providing updated runoff forecasts to local water managers and is closely monitoring spring runoff scenarios and river flows to maximize the benefits from this year’s snowfall while balancing flood control needs.
Data to inform these forecasts comes from a variety of technologies, including Airborne Snow Observatory flights that use LiDAR laser imaging and spectrometer tools, according to the agency.
“The recent storms over the past week broke a month-long dry spell in a dramatic way,” Sean de Guzman, the department’s snow surveys and water supply forecasting unit manager, said in a statement.
“We are hopeful that we will see more cold storms to add to our snowpack for the next month and help set up a long, slow melt period into spring,” de Guzman added.
The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday that 49 percent of California was in drought conditions, down from virtually all of the state three months ago.
“Clearly the amount of water that’s fallen this year has greatly alleviated the drought,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California-Los Angeles, told The Associated Press. “It has not ended the drought completely, but we’re in a very different place than we were a year ago.”