Lake Tahoe snowpack improves, but drought likely to continue |

Lake Tahoe snowpack improves, but drought likely to continue

Adam JensenSierra Sun

Dale Kolke/Provided to the SunJohn Harrington, Marianne Hallet and Frank Gehrke work their way along the snow course, sampling snow at set distances to determine water content.

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. andamp;#8212; Above average andamp;#8212; but just barely andamp;#8212; was the message California water managers received during the third snow survey of the season at Phillips Station this week.On Wednesday morning, snow surveyors measured 76.3 inches of snow at the longtime survey site, just to the east of the entrance of Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort.The snow at Phillips Station contained the equivalent of 25.1 inches of water, 102 percent of the long term average, according to California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program data.The Central Sierra snowpack, which includes the area surrounding Lake Tahoe, sits at 93 percent of its long term average water content for this time of year, while the northern and southern ends of the mountain range contain 126 percent and 109 percent of the long term average, respectively.Statewide, the water content of Sierra snowpack rests at 107 percent of average.The results are encouraging for Californiaandamp;#8217;s water supplies, but wonandamp;#8217;t be enough to save the state from a fourth year of drought, officials said Wednesday.andamp;#8220;Todayandamp;#8217;s readings boost our hope that we will be able to increase the State Water Project allocation by this spring to deliver more water to our cities and farms,andamp;#8221; said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin, in a statement. andamp;#8220;But we must remember that even a wet winter will not fully offset three consecutive dry years or pumping restrictions to protect Delta fish so we must continue to conserve and protect our water resources.andamp;#8221;Despite recent storms, Lake Orovilleandamp;#8217;s storage level is at 55 percent average for this time of year. The lake is about 30 miles southeast of Chico, Calif. and is the principal storage reservoir for the State Water Project, which supplies water to 23 million Californians and 755,000 acres of irrigated farmland.Wet weather caused the water projectandamp;#8217;s allocation to be increased from 5 to 15 percent of requested amounts on Feb. 26.And, if storms continue, the final allocation could rise to 35 to 45 percent of requested amounts, according to the statement.Dry soil conditions from previous years of drought are expected to absorb much of the snowpackandamp;#8217;s water that would otherwise would help to replenish streams and reservoirs during the spring and early summer melt.