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Snowpack's Water Content Far Greater than One Year Ago, But It's Still Too Soon To Know Whether Drought Will Be Broken

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The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the winter’s first media-oriented manual snow survey on Dec. 30, and despite the higher-than-average water content for the statewide snowpack, officials said snowfall during the remainder of the winter will largely determine whether California’s drought will be entrenched for a fifth year.

DWR Director Mark Cowin said the heavy snowfall so far during Water Year 2016 "has been a reasonable start, but another three or four months of surveys will indicate whether the snowpack’s runoff will be sufficient to replenish California’s reservoirs by this summer." Each water year begins on October 1 and ends on the following September 30.

DWR conducts five media-oriented snow surveys in the Sierra Nevada each winter—near the first of January, February, March, April and May—at the Phillips Station plot (elevation 6,800 feet) just off Highway 50 near Sierra-at-Tahoe Road 90 miles east of Sacramento.

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, said more than four years of drought have left a water deficit around the state that may be difficult to overcome in just one winter season.

"Clearly, this is much better that it was last year at this time, but we haven’t had the full effect of the El Niño yet," Gehrke said. "If we believe the forecasts, then El Niño is supposed to kick in as we move through the rest of the winter. That will be critical when it comes to looking at reservoir storage." 

Click here to read the press release in its entirety.


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