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NID snow survey: 55% of average snow water content before the February atmospheric river

People hiking in snow, clear blue sky, pine trees around.
NID hydrographers snowshoe to the high-elevation snow course on Webber Peak (Jan. 29, 2024)

(Grass Valley, Feb. 5, 2024) – What a difference a weekend makes. The atmospheric river that powered in on Sunday is bringing heavy snow to the Sierra Nevada. But leading into the storm, snow in the mountains measured about half of average.

During the first snow survey of the year, last week Nevada Irrigation District (NID) hydrographers measured an average of 11.2 inches, or 55 percent, of water content in the snow. The historical average is 20.5 inches.

Interestingly, total January precipitation was 103 percent of average at 12.65 inches.

“Despite average precipitation for the month of January, warmer weather patterns contributed to a below-average snowpack,” said NID’s Water Resources Superintendent Thor Larsen.

NID conducts its snow surveys on courses at varying elevations that provide water to raw water and treated water customers. Here are the measurements from the February survey:

  •  NID’s highest course, Webber Peak, at 7,800 feet, had 38.2 inches of snow with a water content of 13.7 inches (survey taken on Jan. 29)
  • English Mountain snow course (7,100 ft.) had 42.7 inches of snow with a water content of 16.1 inches (survey taken on Jan. 29)
  • Webber Lake (7,000 ft.) had 29.3 inches of snow with a water content of 10.4 inches (survey taken on Jan. 29)
  • Findley Peak (6,500 ft.) had a snowpack of 25.8 inches with a water content of 10.1 inches (survey taken on Jan. 29)
  • Bowman Reservoir (5,650 ft.) had 13.9 inches of snow with a water content of 5.6 inches (survey taken on Jan. 29)
  • At the lower Chalk Bluff snow course (4,850 ft.) on the Deer Creek watershed, hydrographers measured 4.1 inches of snow with a water content of 1.4 inches on Jan. 25 (the Chalk Bluff numbers are not included in the total average).

Note: snow water equivalent is an indicator of how much water the snowpack contains. This helps water managers plan for water use.

In other measurements, District reservoir storage is above average. NID reservoirs are currently storing 210,520 acre-feet of water, which is 78 percent of capacity and 108 percent of average.

“Reservoir storage levels remain high, and February forecasts are projecting increased chances of above-average precipitation,” Larsen said.

Track NID river and reservoir data, click here.

NID is a member of the California Cooperative Snow Survey. Results of the District’s snow surveys are used to predict water availability locally and statewide.

Snow-covered landscape with conifer trees under a bright blue sky.
The snow course on English Mountain
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