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NID April Snow survey: precipitation below average; reservoir levels near average for the season

April 6, 2020

Near-average precipitation in March helped bolster overall levels in the watersheds that are the source for Nevada Irrigation District (NID) water supply, but the totals still fall below average. On a brighter note, the District’s reservoirs remain at near average for the season.

NID surveyors trekked to different locations in the Sierra last week to take snowpack measurements – both snow depth and the water content contained in the snow. For the five mountain courses, the average water content was 22.92 inches, or 68 percent average for the season. At Bowman Reservoir, precipitation as of April 1 measured 38.78 inches, which is 65 percent of average.

After a February that brought little rain- and snowfall to our region, “March produced near average precipitation for the month, and added approximately 10 inches of water content to our snowpack,” said Thor Larsen, NID’s Water Resources Superintendent.

Thanks to last year’s wet winter season, NID’s reservoirs are at 79 percent of capacity with 211,945 acre-feet, or 94 percent average for the season (an acre foot of water equals about 326,000 gallons, enough water to cover an acre of land 1-foot deep. An acre foot can typically meet the annual indoor and outdoor needs of two average households).

Reservoir storage is reflective of the amount of precipitation that falls the prior year. NID’s reservoirs are near average due to last year’s snowfall, which was the 7th most on record in the upper division. A diminished snowpack this year will impact storage later this year, as less runoff will enter NID’s system.

The message from NID is to get into the routine practice of water conservation: “While there was improvement to the snowpack this year, we are still below average and continue to encourage water conservation by all of our customers,” Larsen said.

NID’s second 2020 snowpack survey found: NID’s highest course, Webber Peak (7,800-foot elevation) had 74.9 inches of snow with a water content of 13.4 inches. The English Mountain snow course (7,100 ft.) had 79.6 inches of snow with a water content of 31.7 inches. Webber Lake (7,000 ft.) had 59.2 inches of snow with a water content of 22.7 inches. Findley Peak (6,500 ft.) had a snowpack of 60.40 inches and a 20-inch water content. Bowman Reservoir (5,563 ft.) had 37.5 inches of snow and a 13.4-inch water content.

A sixth snow course at a lower elevation, Chalk Bluff at 4,850 feet on the Deer Creek watershed, had a 27.6-inch snowpack with a 10-inch water content (the Chalk Bluff snow course is not included in the five-course mountain division average).

The measurements were taken from March 31 through April 2, and do not reflect the winter storm that came through this weekend.

A member of the California Cooperative Snow Survey, NID conducts three official snow surveys each year in February, March and April. Results of the snow surveys are used to predict water availability locally and statewide.

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