Water scientists hope for miracle march | SierraSun.com

Water scientists hope for miracle march

Jonah M. Kessel / Tahoe Daily TribuneSnow falls at a rapid pace in Stateline, Nev., Tuesday night, Feb. 3, 2009. Snow totals are predicted to reach up to 6 feet above 8000 feet near the Sierra Crest.

LAKE TAHOE ” Despite recent snowstorms that have dropped feet of snow on the Sierra Nevada, water officials in California remain concerned that runoff from the snowpack will not be enough to fill the state’s reservoirs.

On Monday, Department of Water Resources scientists measured 54.4 inches of snow at Phillips Station, near the entrance to Sierra-at-Tahoe.

The snowpack at the station contained the equivalent of 25 inches of water, 101 percent of the long-term average for this time of year. Last month, the water content of the snowpack at Phillips Station was just 68 percent of average, according to DWR data.

Still, the water content of the Sierra snowpack as a whole remains at 80 percent of average.

Even though that’s up 19 percent from last month, it’s short of the 120 percent target state water officials estimate is needed by next month to fill the state’s major reservoirs this spring.

“Although recent storms have added to the snowpack, California remains in a serious drought,” DWR Director Lester Snow said in a statement. “This year’s precipitation levels are still below average.”

The findings are part of the third snow survey of the season and come days after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state drought emergency that asks Californians to cut their water use by 20 percent.

Three years of below-average rain and snowfall have drained California’s key reservoirs to the lowest levels since 1992.

California’s largest reservoirs ” Shasta and Oroville ” are slightly more than half as full as they should be. Pumping restrictions in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta to protect a threatened fish have compounded water shortages for most of the state.

Although the National Weather service predicts a chance of snow every day this week through Friday, state water officials are still skeptical that this winter’s snowfall can make up for the two previous sub-par years.

“On the heels of two critically dry years, it is unlikely we will make up the deficit and be able to refill our reservoirs before winter’s end,” Snow said. “It’s very important that Californians continue to save water at home and in their businesses.”

” Associated Press Writer Samantha Young contributed to this report

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