Sierra snowpack thicker than last year

December 30, 2008 5:48:20 PM PST
State officials are reporting a deeper Sierra snowpack than last year but caution that California needs a much wetter winter to recharge its water supplies.

They do it every winter, but this year the monthly snow measurements in the high Sierra carry added weight.

Frank Gehrke is the Survey Director for the California Department of Water Resources.

"This is a very early snapshot as to what's going on up here. It's still way up in the air, in terms of how the year may turn out," said Gehrke.

At phillips Station at 6,800 feet, the snow depth measured 41 inches, 11 inches deeper than this time last year.

What really matters is water content. It's 10 inches here, three inches more than 2007. But water content across the central sierra is still below average at 76 percent.

"This is you know, it's good, it doesn't get us out of a drought. This is only one piece of the puzzle," said John Andrews from the California Department of Water Resources.

It's a puzzle that includes reservoirs approaching historic lows, a Delta system with outdated levees and restricted use of the pumps near Tracy by court order to protect endangered smelt.

Finally, there's the weather and no reliable way to predict what it will do long term.

The early season measurements are important, but what really matters in terms of ending the drought in California is what's here in April.

"If we have really well above average snowpack here in April, we'r ein pretty good shape," said Gehrke.

But water managers warn -- there's still a long way to go. And what's here today could be gone with the next warm spell.


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