Snowpack better, now at 35 percent
April 5, 2014
The Nevada Irrigation District has released its most recent snowpack survey, and the recent spring storms appear to have improved the outlook for the local water supply.
"With the weather changing to a more wet pattern in February and March, we have finally seen an improvement in the snowpack," said NID Operations Administrator Sue Sindt in a written statement Friday morning.
In the NID's last snowpack survey, conducted two months ago in early February, water content was measured at just 7 percent of average. As of April 3, however, the local snowpack is up to 35 percent.
Measurements were taken at five different mountain courses, including Webber Peak, Webber Lake, English Mountain, Findley Peak and Bowman Reservoir. Locations ranged in altitude from 5,650 feet to 7,880 feet.
Data from the NID survey is available online at the NID's website.
Despite snowpack measurements at just a fraction of what NID would see in a normal year, NID reservoirs currently hold more than 197,000 acre-feet of water. That's 76 percent of maximum capacity and 109 percent of average.
The local numbers compare somewhat favorably against the recent snowpack survey conducted by the California Department of Water Resource, which found levels in the Sierras at just 32 percent of average despite two months of relatively wet weather.
The DWR has stated that 2014 is on track to be the fifth or sixth driest year on record.
Nevada City water rate increase off the table for 2014
Back in February, Nevada City staffers presented the city council with an informational item explaining how dry weather conditions had forced the city to purchase more water than usual from NID.
"If the winter comes late, that means we continue to buy water," city manager David Brennan told The Union. "That's what happened to us this year."
In order to meet the community's needs, Brennan estimates they had to buy an extra 80 acre-feet of water. That's more than 26 million gallons. If dry conditions were to persist into the coming years, it could drive the city's costs high enough to impact rate-payers.
Two major storms have moved through the area since that council meeting in February — and a water rate increase is no longer being considered for this year.
"Now that there's been a little more snowpack, we think we're going to have a normal water supply going into the summer," Brennan said.
A rate increase may still be required in the future, however, depending on the drought.
"What we experienced this year cost us some money," Brennan said. "If we have the same thing happen next year, we may have to look at our rates, but even then we're only talking about a two to three percent bump in the rates due to dry weather conditions."
To contact staff writer Dave Brooksher, send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.