Tahoe, Donner Summit snowpack improves – but is miracle March the key?
March 9, 2010
LAKE TAHOE – Snow totals may be up compared to the past few meager winters, but this season hasn’t proven the meteorological savior some had hoped for.Last week, surveyors measured 76.3 inches of snow at the Phillips Station east of Sierra-at-Tahoe toward the south end of the lake, holding the equivalent of 25.1 inches of water, or 102 percent of average, according to the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program Data.As of Monday on Donner Summit, 87 inches of snow sat at the Central Sierra Snow Lab, holding 97 percent of the average snow water equivalent, said Randall Osterhuber, staff research associate and manager of the snow lab.Not bad, said Chad Blanchard, chief hydrologist with the U.S. District Court Water Masters Office, but not enough to make the region’s water picture recover from the last three dry winters.”The runoff forecast is only a foot of rise from April to the high point,” Blanchard said.This would take Lake Tahoe from a few tenths of an inch above its natural rim at 6,223 feet today to about 1 feet 3 inches above the rim, Blanchard said, as long as forecasts hold.That means the lake likely will once again drop below the rim next summer or fall, Blanchard said, drying the top of the Truckee River. The dam at the Truckee River is about 6 feet tall above the rim.But Blanchard said things could still change.”We’re hoping March came in like a lamb, but goes out like a lion,” Blanchard said. “We still have some time left – we have had big miracle Marchs in the past.”Osterhuber said March is traditionally the second-heaviest precipitation month, following January closely, so forecasters will have a much better handle on how the area’s water will shake out at the beginning of April.”April 1st is the historical average for when melt overtakes accumulation,” Osterhuber said.
Looking at other area lakes and reservoirs, Boca Reservoir should refill, Blanchard said, but Prosser and Stampede may not, depending on what the rest of the spring looks like.State-wide, the results are encouraging for California’s water supplies, but won’t be enough to save the state from a fourth year of drought, officials said last week.”Today’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,” said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin, in a statement. “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.”
To keep up with the latest lake levels in Tahoe, and to see historic levels, go to http://www.tmh2o.com/lake_level.