ECHO SUMMIT, Calif. (AP) — A snowy December that kept Sierra ski resorts busy also had California’s water managers hopeful Wednesday at the start of a monthly snow-measuring ritual that determines everything from types of crops planted to municipal water allocations.
Officials with the Department of Water Resources measured more than 4 feet of accumulation near Echo Summit in El Dorado County on Wednesday, which is about normal for this time of year, said Frank Gehrke, head of California’s cooperative snow survey program.
On this date last year there was only 0.14 inches of snow.
“You can see it’s a big, big difference. It’s a good start to the year,” Gehrke said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we keep getting storm activity into April.”
California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack provides about one-third of the water used in the state as it melts to fill reservoirs and rivers and replenish aquifers. The current depth is about half of what normally falls during the season, which ends April 1.
Electronic readings show the water content of the snow ranging from 131 percent of average in the southern Sierra to 133 percent in the north.
Based on current conditions, the DWR estimates it will deliver 40 percent of the 4 million acre-feet of water requested through the State Water Project, which supplies water to 25 million Californians and a million acres of farmland.
The heavy snowpack came from a series of tropical storms that flowed over the region last month, but weather forecasters warn that early January doesn’t look nearly as sodden.