The first manual snow survey of the Sierra snowpack this winter found more snow than last year at this time, but the snow water equivalent as measured statewide remains far below average for this date (end of year).

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the survey today about 90 miles east of Sacramento on a plot along Highway 50 near Echo Summit. Snow covered the ground there to a depth of 21.3 inches, according to DWR’s Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program who conducted the survey.

The snow water equivalent was 4 inches at that particular snow course, or 33 percent of average. Statewide, 105 electronic sensors in the Sierra detected a snow water equivalent of 4.8 inches, 50 percent of the multi-year average for December 30. That compares favorably with last Winter’s first survey, when the snow water equivalent statewide was only 20 percent of normal, which tied with 2012 as the driest readings on record.

DWR Director Mark Cowin said about survey results: “Although this year’s survey shows a deeper snowpack than last year, California needs much more rain and snow than we’ve experienced over the past two years to end the drought in 2015. The department encourages Californians to continue their water conservation practices.”

Cowin said the state’s surface and groundwater reservoirs have been severely depleted during the drought, which now is in its fourth consecutive year. He said a snowpack built up significantly during the winter months would be needed to recharge the reservoirs to their historical averages as the snow melts during the late spring and summer month.

Generally, California’s snowpack supplies about a third of the water needed by the state’s residents, agriculture and industry as it melts in the late spring and summer.

The electronic readings indicated that water content in the northern mountains was 57 percent of normal for the date and 17 percent of the average on April 1, when the snowpack normally is at its peak before the spring melt. Electronic readings in the central Sierra show 45 percent of normal for the date and 16 percent of the April 1 average. The numbers for the southern Sierra were 48 percent of average for the date and 15 percent of the April 1 average.

The whole news release can be read at http://www.water.ca.gov/news/newsreleases/2014/123014.pdf.