DWR Completes First Snow Survey of the Season

By on December 31, 2020
Higher than Average Snowpack, but Drought’s Still On

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the first Phillips Station snow survey of the season yesterday.

The manual survey recorded 30.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 10.5 inches, which is 93 percent of the January 1 average for this location. According to DWR, the conditions at Phillips Station are positive, but statewide the snowpack is just 52% of average for this date.

“The snow survey results reflect California’s dry start to the water year and provide an important reminder that our state’s variable weather conditions are made more extreme by climate change,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “We still have several months left to bring us up to average, but we should prepare now for extended dry conditions. The Department, along with other state agencies and local water districts, is prepared to support communities should conditions remain dry.”

On average, the Sierra snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs and the snowpack is an important factor in determining how DWR manages the state’s water resources. Its natural ability to store water is why the Sierra snowpack is often referred to as California’s “frozen reservoir.”

DWR also monitors electronic readings from 130 stations placed throughout the State. Those measurements indicate that statewide, the snowpack’s SWE is 5 inches, or 52 percent of the December 30 average.

“Today’s survey brought a first glimpse of how the state’s snowpack is shaping up, but there is a lot of winter still ahead,” said Sean de Guzman, chief of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section. “While the dry conditions during late summer and fall have led to a below average snowpack, it is still encouraging to have the amount of snow we already have with two of the three typically wettest months still to come.”