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One of the driest January-February on record will mean we will likely get no relief from drought conditions this year.
The moderately good news is the Nevada Irrigation District is in better shape than others, based on the findings of the March survey on snow courses that provide water to raw- and treated water to District customers. The survey was taken on February 23/24 and on March 1.
During the latest survey, NID hydrographers found the average water content in the snowpack was 23.8 inches or 85 percent of average of 27.9 inches for the District’s five high-elevation snow courses. By comparison, last month’s snow survey found water content to be 24.7 inches.
Cumulative precipitation at Bowman Reservoir was 44.43 inches, which is 91 percent of average, as of March. 2.
NID’s nine reservoirs are currently storing 195,824 acre-feet of water, which is 72 percent of capacity and 94 percent of average.
The results may not seem especially alarming, yet they do create a cause for concern. Short of a March Miracle deluge, we will again fall short of an average water supply and will be pressed to conserve as much water as possible.
NID’s watermaster noted that February produced less than 1 inch of precipitation; it was the ninth driest February on record. This followed an exceptionally dry January. In fact, the two-month total of 2.83 inches was the second driest Jan-Feb in 134 years of records.
“We are taking efforts to maximize storage carry on while District planning focuses on optimizing all available supplies,” said Water Resources Superintendent Thor Larsen.
With focus on saving as much water as possible as we head into the spring and summer, conservation continues to be a key.
“Water efficiency and conservation continue to remain at the forefront of the District messaging as we navigate through drought,” Larsen said.
Here are the specifics of the recent snow survey: NID’s highest course, Webber Peak, at 7,800 feet, had 64 inches of snow with a water content of 26.8 inches. The English Mountain snow course (7,100 ft.) had 66.3 inches of snow with a water content of 30.9 inches. Webber Lake (7,000 ft.) had 55.6 inches of snow with a water content of 22.9 inches. Findley Peak (6,500 ft.) had a snowpack of 54.8 inches and a 21.5-inch water content. Bowman Reservoir (5,650 ft.) had 44.2 inches of snow and a 16.8-inch water content.
At the lower Chalk Bluff snow course (4,850 ft.) on the Deer Creek watershed, the survey showed 15.1 inches of snow with 6.1 inches of water content (the Chalk Bluff numbers are not included in the total average).
Despite the below-average findings, NID’s survey fared better than a survey taken by the state Department of Water Resources (DWR). That survey found the water content of the statewide snowpack was just 63 percent of normal to date and the snowmelt forecast was just 66 percent of average, based on data from hundreds of measuring sites in the Sierra Nevada.
DWR noted that will not be enough to fill up reservoirs. Statewide reservoir storage is at about 73 percent of average. Forecasts are also bleak: “Without any significant storms on the horizon, it’s safe to say that we’ll end this year dry and continue on into the third year of this ongoing drought,” said Sean de Guzman, manager of the department’s snow surveys and water supply forecasting section.
* NID is a member of the California Cooperative Snow Survey and conducts three official snow surveys each year in February, March, and April. Results of the snow surveys are used to predict water availability locally and statewide.