Minimal snow at Phillips Station meadow
Minimal snow was found at the Phillips Station meadow before the start of the first snow survey of 2018. Photo by Kelly M. Grow for California Department of Water Resources

The new year begins with a minimal snowpack in the Sierra Nevada as measuring stations across the state report an average Wednesday of 2.3 inches — just 21 percent of normal.

“The survey is a disappointing start of the year, but it’s far too early to draw conclusions about what kind of a wet season we’ll have this year,” said Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program. “There’s plenty of time left in the traditional wet season to reverse the dry trend we’ve been experiencing.”

Gehrke conducted the California Department of Natural Resources‘ traditional manual measurement of the snowpack at the Phillips Station east of Sacramento. That measurement was just 0.4 inches — 3 percent of normal.

But, because last year was so wet, the state’s reservoirs have plenty of water. The San Diego County Water Authority says it has adequate supplies to last several years.

“California’s great weather variability means we can go straight from a dry year to a wet year and back again to dry,” said Grant Davis, director of the Department of Natural Resources. “That’s why California is focusing on adopting water conservation as a way of life, investing in above- and below-ground storage, and improving our infrastructure to protect our clean water supplies against disruptions.”

California traditionally receives about half of its annual precipitation during December, January and February.

On average, the snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer.

Chris Jennewein

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