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Carson River snowpack running well behind

A rainbow from Monday's storm.
Kurt Hildebrand

The Carson River basin is going to need more than the storms forecast to hit over the next week to make up for the last 15 months.

The basin was running about 80 percent of average snow-water equivalent at the beginning of the year.

Natural Resource Conservation Service Hydrologist Jeff Anderson said a dry fall will make catching up even more difficult.



“When you’re in school you want to have 100 percent,” he said. “But what we’re shooting for is more than 100 percent snowpack.”

That’s particularly true on the upper Carson River where there is no upriver storage.



The upper Carson Basin is entirely dependent on snowpack for irrigation season. That’s important because having enough river water to irrigate means ranchers won’t delve into their supplemental groundwater rights, which affects water levels in the Carson Valley. Of the 100,000 acre feet of water estimated to be available, half of that is tied up in agricultural.

Anderson said one of the key concerns was a lack of rain during the fall, which dried out soils.

“The soil under the snow is very dry,” he said. “It’s an empty sponge and melt-off will need to fill up the soil profile. It’s the kind of overhead left over from not getting rain this storm.”

Anderson said 3-4 good storms could make a difference in the Sierra, or even one giant storm.

“We’re behind where we want to be, but it could be worse,” he said. “It’s not as good as last year this time.”

Heavenly Ski Resort reported 4 inches fell on the 48 hours ending Tuesday morning. Snow telemetry on Carson Pass indicates around three inches of new snow at the top of the Carson River’s West Fork. Ebbetts Pass at the top of the West Fork snow depth has remained steady over the beginning of the year at 31-33 inches.

The New Year’s weekend storm didn’t bring the hoped for foot of snow to the Sierra above Tahoe.

A weather system is forecast to arrive for Thursday night bringing 3-6 inches of snow to the Sierra above 7,000 feet.