Drought not over, but better
Nevada climate watchers took to the slopes on Friday to measure the snow pack and talk about the state of the Sierra drought.
Nevada Natural Resource Conservation Service Hydrologist Jeff Anderson visited the Mt. Rose snow telemetry site to take a measurement and discuss the snowpack’s status.
April 1 is historically the day when the Sierra snow pack is at its peak, according to the National Weather Service.
“The general takeaway is that this winter brought near normal snow pack for most of Northern Nevada and Northern California,” forecasters said. “While an improvement over the past three winters, long term drought conditions remain a concern in many areas.”
According to Saturday’s snow update report, the snow pack feeding the Carson River basin was at 109 percent of average, with Ebbetts Pass at 107 percent and Blue Lakes at 121 percent of average.
The Lake Tahoe Basin is showing 106 percent of average, thanks in part to Heavenly Valley, which is at 141 percent of average with 30.2 inches of water stored in the snowpack.
This will be the first average winter since 2010-11. Below average precipitation occurred over most of eastern California and Western Nevada from October 2011 through April 2015.
Precipitation has been above average from May 2015 through January 2016, but slowed down in February and March.
Minden received .45 inches in March, or 40 percent of average. During February, the Douglas County seat received .85 inches, or 75 percent of average.
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows all of Douglas County has improved from exceptional to extreme drought.
Carson Valley irrigators rely on snowmelt to feed streams and rivers. A cool spring can extend irrigation season by slowing the melt-off.
Some ranches have supplemental water rights they can pump. Bently and Park ranches also rely on treated effluent to irrigate some fields.
Many hoped that a monster El Niño would provide a relief from the drought. However, forecasters warned the weather phenomenon wasn’t a good predictor of central Sierra weather.