Here is how much snow remains in the Sierra as officials plan for a big spring runoff

·2 min read
DWR video image

State water officials conducted a fifth snow survey of the season Monday at Phillips Station, near Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort off Highway 50, and recorded 59 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 30 inches, or 241 percent of average for the location on May 1.

The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water still contained in the snowpack, providing the Department of Water Resources with key data in forecasting the coming snow runoff. DWR’s electronic readings from 130 snow sensors placed throughout the state indicate the statewide snowpack’s snow water equivalent is 49.2 inches, or 254 percent of average for this date.

Much of the snowpack is still in the mountains, DWR officials said, despite a brief increase in temperatures in late April. That’s because the statewide snowpack overall has melted at a slower pace than average over the month of April after below average temperatures early in the month and increased cloud cover.

An average of 12 inches of the snowpack’s snow water equivalent has melted in the past month.

Snow surveys are critical for planning for impacts of the coming spring snow runoff on communities.

“While providing a significant boost to California’s water supplies, this year’s massive snowpack is posing continued flood risks in the San Joaquin Valley,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a news release. “The snowpack will not disappear in one week or one month but will lead to sustained high flows across the San Joaquin and Tulare Basins over the next several months and this data will help us inform water managers and ultimately help protect communities in these regions.”

The last time there was measurable snow at the Phillips snow course on May 1 was 2020, but officials measured only 1.5 inches of snow and .5 inches of snow water equivalent back then.