Snow survey results in

Snowy scene with creek covered by snowThe March snow survey completed on February 28, 2017 at Sweagert Flat on Adin Mountain measured a snow depth of 57.4 inches compared to the long-term average of 33.88 inches. Water content was 19 inches compared to the long-term average of 10.9 inches.

“That’s great news for the easing of the drought in the Modoc area,” said Nick Semenza Forest Hydrologist on the Modoc National Forest. “Last year’s snow depth was 37.7 inches with a water content of 14.7 inches. This year the snow depth is 169 percent of average and the water content is 174 percent of average. National forests cover less than a quarter of the land in California but provide 65 percent of the State’s freshwater. The Modoc National Forest snowpack will provide storage and fresh water for those downstream.”

The Sierra Nevada snowpack is close to setting records set more than thirty years ago - welcome after five years of severe drought in California, surveyors said last week.

Water storage in California takes many forms. As much as a third of the state’s supply comes from snowpack, which releases water during spring and summer when demand is highest. Water stored in soils supports plant growth and helps regulate storm runoff, according to the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center.

Water comes from forests. As the snow melts over the spring and summer and fills reservoirs, farmers and urbanites should feel relief from recent extremely dry conditions and drought restrictions. Stored water is used for recreation, hydropower, flood control, irrigation and human consumption.

Regional Forester, Pacific Southwest Region, Randy Moore presented in testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee:

“The Sierra Nevada Region is an area of great significance to the State of California. Comprising about 25 percent of California’s total land area, the region is California’s principal watershed and provides:

  1. More than 60 percent of the State’s developed water supply – drinking water for 23 million people and water for millions of acres of agricultural lands
  2. Up to 50 percent of the freshwater that flows into the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta
  3. Fifteen million acre feet of natural water storage in the form of snowpack – roughly equal to the storage capacity of the five largest man-made reservoirs in the state combined. This water is slowly released over spring and summer when it is needed the most by urban and agricultural users
  4. More than 50 percent of the hydropower generated in California

“With the region‘s focus on ecological restoration, the ecosystem services and community economic benefits will be enhanced with the delivery of clean water and an improved flow regime that benefits people, fish and wildlife,” said Moore.