Snow ear the iconic Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo by Kenneth James / California Department of Water Resources

The Department of Water Resources said Wednesday the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada has reached 205% of normal thanks to a series of storms, though dry weather between now and April could still threaten water supplies.

The snowpack received a significant boost from one of the wettest three-week periods on record in California, following the driest three-year period on record.

“California has always experienced some degree of swings between wet and dry, but the past few months have demonstrated how much more extreme those swings are becoming,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth.

“While today’s results are good news for water supplies, we know from experience how quickly snowpack can disappear if dry conditions return in the months ahead,” she said.

If California returns to dry conditions for the next two months, as the state experienced last year, a significant snowpack early in the winter can quickly disappear.

The DWR said periodic rain and snow over the next several months will be key to get the biggest water supply benefit from the state’s snowpack without posing additional flood risks.

On average, the Sierra snowpack supplies about 30% of California’s water needs and is an important factor in determining how DWR manages the state’s water resources. Its natural ability to store water is why the Sierra snowpack is often referred to as California’s “frozen reservoir.”  

The snowpack is less important for San Diego County, which relies on the Colorado River, local reservoirs and the Carlsbad desalination plant, but welcome for the rest of Southern California.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.