Snow survey results show higher water levels than last year

Tiffany TuellJanuary 10, 2013 

Snow surveyors were out measuring the snowpack last Wednesday, Jan. 2 with much more promising results than last year.

Manual and electronic readings statewide showed water content at 134% -- 49% of the average April 1 measurement (when the snowpack is normally at its peak). This time last year the water content was only 19% -- 7% of the April 1 average.

Electronic readings for the central Sierra are 133% of normal average to do and half the April 1 average. Last year the central Sierra was at 13% normal and only 5% of the April 1 average.

According to the Department of Water Resources, the snowpack normally provides about a third of the water for California's homes, farms and industries as it melts into streams, reservoirs and aquifers in the spring and early summer.

In addition to above average water content in the snowpack, early storms this season have replenished California's reservoirs. Millerton Lake is currently at 58% capacity, 108% of average for the date.

"We are off to a good water supply start for the new year, but we have to remember that we have seen wet conditions suddenly turn dry more than once," said DWR spokesman Ted Thomas. "We know from experience that California is a drought-prone state, and that we must always practice conservation."

Rainfall is also much higher this year than last year. Recorded as one of the driest winters on record, last year the area had only received 4.74 inches of rain at this time. This year it has already received 10.77 inches year-to-date for the season July 1-June 30 according to Lisa Dow, at the U.S. Forest Service offices in North Fork. The historic season average is 32 inches.

The wetter winter is not only a benefit to California's water, but also the air. Because of all the precipitation, the air has been more clear resulting in fewer no burn days according to Janelle Schneider, public information representative for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

However Schneider says they still encourage people to not use wood burning stoves unless they are a home's only source of heat or the home doesn't have gas -- both exemptions to wood burning prohibitions.

"We really try to discourage people from unnecessary burning," Schneider said. "Even if it's a day when wood burning is allowed, we encourage people not to burn because it really keeps the air quality that much better."

Schneider said during the winter, particulate pollution is major problem that is extremely harmful to our health, especially fine particulate matter -- wood burning is a significant source -- that can get into the blood stream. Fine particulate matter is correlated with with heart attacks and strokes and causes respiratory disease, lung infections and bronchitis.

More information about air quality can be found at www.valleyair.org/Home.htm

Details: Electronic reservoir level readings are available on the Internet at: cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/products/rescond.pdf

Electronic snowpack readings may be found at: cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow/DLYSWEQ

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