State still has more than double the average snowpack in May
Photo courtesy Ken James / California Department of Water Resources

State still has more than double the average snowpack in May

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted a fifth snow survey for the season at Phillips Station yesterday. The manual survey recorded 59 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 30 inches, which is 241 percent of average for this location on May 1. DWR’s electronic readings from 130 snow sensors placed throughout the state indicate the statewide snowpack’s snow water equivalent is 49.2 inches, or 254 percent of average for this date.

Despite a brief increase in temperatures in late April, the statewide snowpack overall melted at a slower pace than average over the month of April due to below average temperatures early in the month and increased cloud cover. An average of 12 inches of the snowpack’s snow water equivalent has melted in the past month and it now contains an average of 49.2 inches.

“While providing a significant boost to California’s water supplies, this year’s massive snowpack is posing continued flood risks in the San Joaquin Valley,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The snowpack will not disappear in one week or one month but will lead to sustained high flows across the San Joaquin and Tulare Basins over the next several months and this data will help us inform water managers and ultimately help protect communities in these regions.”

The last time there was measurable snow at the Phillips snow course on May 1 was 2020, when only 1.5 inches of snow and .5 inches of snow water equivalent was measured.

“No matter how you look at the data, only a handful of years in the historical record compare to this year’s results,” said Sean de Guzman, manager of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit.

According to historical records, only the April 1 measurements from the years 1952, 1969, 1983 and this year were above 200 percent.

In April, DWR announced a 100 percent allocation of requested supplies from the State Water Project (SWP), which delivers water to 29 public water agencies that serve 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland. The last time the SWP allocated 100 percent was in 2006. DWR is also maximizing the amount of water that can be diverted towards recharging groundwater basins so more water is stored for future use in underground reservoirs.

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