This year’s snowpack water content low |

This year’s snowpack water content low

Following a mild winter and unusually dry March, the mountain snowpack holds just 53 percent of average water content, the Nevada Irrigation District said Monday.

In the April 1 snow survey conducted Wednesday and Friday, NID surveyors measured snowpack depth and water content on six snow courses ranging in elevation from 4,850 feet to 7,800 feet.

Average water content for the five highest elevation snow courses was measured at 18 inches, which equals 53 percent of the 34.1-inch historical average for April 1.

The month of March produced just 1.6 inches, or 15 percent of average precipitation, on NID mountain watershed.

“This was the fourth driest March in our 121 years of records,” said NID Operations Supervisor and snow surveyor Sue Sindt. “The water content is less now than it was a month ago, which is not normal. The April 1 snow survey usually shows the maximum water content for the year.”

Sindt said NID has captured as much runoff as possible in its reservoirs and is being conservative with water releases. In the foothills, Scotts Flat and Combie reservoirs have filled and Rollins Lake is nearly full. In the mountains, Jackson Meadows and Bowman are not expected to fill.

“The lack of runoff will have quite an impact on our carryover water storage for next year,” said Sindt. “Any water that our customers can conserve this year will help us be in a better position for next year, in case it is also dry.”

So far, this is the driest year since 2000-2001 which brought 41.57 inches of precipitation for the 12-month period measured July 1-June 30. Average precipitation for the rest of this season – April, May and June – would total another 10.7 inches, Sindt said.

NID’s 10 reservoirs are currently storing 191,000 acre-feet of water, which is 76 percent of capacity and 107 percent of average for this date. The district’s storage capacity is 250,280 acre-feet. An acre-foot is one acre covered one- foot deep.

A member of the California Cooperative Snow Survey, NID conducts three official snow surveys each year. The April snow survey is generally regarded as the best indicator of annual water supplies. Results of the snow surveys are used to predict water availability locally and statewide.

– The Union Staff

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