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Water In California Snowpack Remains Above Average

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Snow on the road in the Sierra. (CBS)

Snow on the road in the Sierra. (CBS)

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SACRAMENTO (KCBS/AP) — Recent storms have made up for January’s dry weather, keeping California’s snowpack above average, state water officials reported Tuesday.

Hydrologists from the state Department of Water Resources took manual and electronic readings for the third time this winter and they found that water content in the Sierra snowpack is 124 percent of normal for this time of year.

“We’re in pretty good shape. The snowpack to date is in most places, just about where we would hope the average would be on April 1, which is typically the peak,” said Arthur Hinojosa, Chief of the Hydrology and Flood Operations Office with the California Department of Water Resources.

Listen to the complete KCBS Interview with Arthur Hinojosa:

“We appear to be on a good water supply track as we move toward summer’s peak demand period,” said Director Mark Cowin in a statement. “Once again, however, we must emphasize that conservation should always be a priority in California.”

The snowpack, which provides about one-third of the water for California through its runoff, dictates how much water will be delivered to farms and cities through the rest of the year. The state estimated it will be able to deliver 60 percent of the water requested.

That compares to delivering 50 percent of the water requested last year, when the state initially projected a record-low allocation of 5 percent due to the lingering effects of the 2007-2009 droughts.

The last time the state was able to deliver 100 percent of the water requested was in 2006; a rare achievement even in wet years because of pumping restrictions to protect threatened and endangered fish.

On Tuesday, hydrologists took the third of five manual surveys near Lake Tahoe to complement electronic readings statewide. The snow depth registered more than 7 feet at Phillips Station, located 6,800 feet above sea level. Electronic readings indicate the water content ranged from 115 percent in the northern mountains to 139 percent in the southern Sierra for this time of year.

California got off to a great start this winter with a series of storms from October through December along the 400-mile-long range but the state faced dry weather in January. Recent storms have built back the snowpack and another storm system is expected to head in Tuesday night.

“We switched to another wet, snowy pattern and we’ll remain vulnerable to wet, snowy conditions at least through the next seven days,” said Dan Keeton, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Sacramento. “It’s really nice for building snowpack.”

Keeton said each month going forward tends to by drier “so if we can do well here in February and March, we should really be set up.”

Rachael Woods, spokeswoman for Alpine Meadows just west of Lake Tahoe, said the mountain ski resort is at 130 percent of normal, which is driving up the number of skiers and snowboarders. The lodge at Alpine received 99 inches of snow in February, compared to just 23 inches in January.

“If you can believe it, we’re looking at another forecast of 3 feet starting this evening,” Woods said. “It’s beautiful. Of course people are interested in how amazing the conditions are; they’re world-class. But it’s also incredibly beautiful.”

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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