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NID snowpack survey: 46 percent of average for water content; reservoirs are near average for this time of year as water management tightens

March 6, 2020

Following a dry February, Nevada Irrigation District (NID) snowpack has shrunk on snow courses that provide water to its customers.

During a Feb. 27 survey, NID hydrographers found the average water content in the snowpack was 12.96 inches, just 46 percent of the 28.4-inch average for this time of year, at the District’s five high-elevation snow courses.

Also, it was the driest February ever measured at Bowman Reservoir in the 91 years that NID has kept snowpack records. For the season, Bowman precipitation is 59 percent of average at 28.98 inches.

Overall, February precipitation measured only 0.09 inches for the month, or 1 percent of average for the date. Although the month failed to deliver the vital precipitation on which NID depends for its water source, there were some more positive indicators, according to Thor Larsen, NID’s Water Resources Superintendent.

“Even though we had very dry conditions during the month, snowpack water content only dropped 1.7 inches,” Larsen said.

NID’s 10 reservoirs are currently storing 205,400 acre-feet of water, which is 76 percent of capacity and 96 percent of average for this date. Total storage capacity is 270,085 acre-feet (an acre-foot is one acre covered one foot deep).

NID has sufficient water to meet all delivery demands this year. Still, facing limited water from snowmelt this summer, the District will adapt its water management.

“We are preparing for dry year operations while managing reservoir storage to optimize carryover targets,” Larsen said.

The survey showed NID’s highest course, Webber Peak, at 7,800 feet, had 43 inches of snow with a water content of 16.6 inches. The English Mountain snow course (7,100 ft.) had 47.9 inches of snow with a water content of 19.9 inches. Webber Lake (7,000 ft.) had 37.2 inches of snow with a water content of 13.9 inches. Findley Peak (6,500 ft.) had a snowpack of 25.4 inches and a 9.8-inch water content. Bowman Reservoir (5,650 ft.) had 9.6 inches of snow and a 4.6-inch water content.

At the lower division Chalk Bluff snow course (4,850 ft.) on the Deer Creek watershed, the Feb. 26 survey found no measurable snow (the Chalk Bluff numbers are not included in the total average).

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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