California's snowfall so far this winter rivals state's record-setting season, officials say

The winter storms brought unusually heavy snows and snowfall reaching rarely seen low elevations over the past week.

ByLeo Stallworth and ABC7.com staff KABC logo
Friday, March 3, 2023
CA's snowfall so far rivals state's record-setting season: Officials
The water content of the Sierra snowpack, which provides about a third of California's water, is almost twice the average thanks to the recent winter storms.

SIERRA NEVADA, Calif. (KABC) -- The water content of the Sierra snowpack, which provides about a third of California's water, is almost twice the average thanks to the recent winter storms, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

The third snow survey of the season began Friday in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The data collected helps determine the amount of water that will melt and run off to state reservoirs during warmer months.

The survey will also help water managers who allocate California's natural water resources to regions downstream.

"After almost a month-long dry spell during February, this last week brought a significant amount of rain and snow statewide, especially in the southern and central Sierra Nevada," said Sean de Guzman, who's the manager of the Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting section of CDWR.

"For our survey [Friday,] we recorded a snow depth of 116.5 inches and 41.5 inches for snow water content," said Guzman. "That results in a 177% of average to date and a 170% of the April 1 average at this location."

The winter storms brought unusually heavy snows to the mountains and snowfall reaching rarely seen low elevations over the past week.

"This snowpack actually rivals 1982-1983, which is the largest snowpack on record," said Guzman.

So what does all this rain and snow mean for the drought?

"While it's helped our snowpack and our reservoirs, our groundwater basins are a lot slower to recover," said Guzman. "It takes more than a single wet year to really recover a lot of those groundwater have been critically over drafted for so many years during this drought ... We like to use the April 1 snow metric because in terms of snow water content, that's typically when our snowpack is at its annual peak each year. "

Other recent studies have determined that portions of California are now drought-free due to the back-to-back storms drenched the state with precipitation.

The state will take another measurement next month.