April Snow Survey Shows Above Average Snowpack 

  • by Department of Water Resources
  • Apr 2, 2024
  • Water News

SACRAMENTO – The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today conducted the all-important April snow survey, the fourth measurement of the season at Phillips Station. The manual survey recorded 64 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 27.5 inches, which is 113 percent of average for this location. The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR’s water supply forecast. The April measurement is critical for water managers as it’s considered the peak snowpack for the season and marks the transition to spring snowmelt into the state’s rivers and reservoirs.

DWR’s electronic readings from 130 stations placed throughout the state indicate that the statewide snowpack’s snow water equivalent is 28.6 inches, or 110 percent of the April 1 average, a significant improvement from just 28 percent of average on January 1.

The focus now shifts to forecasting spring snowmelt runoff and capturing as much of that water as possible for future use.

“It’s great news that the snowpack was able to catch up in March from a dry start this year. This water year shows once again how our climate is shifting, and how we can swing from dry to wet conditions within a season,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “These swings make it crucial to maintain conservation while managing the runoff. Variable climate conditions could result in less water runoff into our reservoirs. 100 percent snowpack does not mean 100 percent runoff. Capturing and storing what we can in wetter years for drier times remains a key priority.”

California’s reservoirs remain in good shape thanks to state efforts to capture and store as much water as possible from record storms in 2023 and again this season. The State Water Project has increased storage by 700,000 acre-feet at Lake Oroville and by 154,000 acre-feet at San Luis Reservoir since January 1. Statewide, reservoir levels currently stand at 116 percent of average.

However, there are challenges ahead as the spring runoff begins. The dry start to the year, soot and ash from burn scars that accelerates snowmelt, and other factors may result in below average spring runoff which can impact water availability.

Recently, the State Water Project increased its forecasted allocation of water supplies for the year to 30 percent, up from an initial 10 percent, due to the storms in February and March. However, uncertainty about the spring runoff and ongoing pumping restrictions to protect threatened and endangered species in the Delta has impacted that allocation forecast.

“California has had two years of relatively positive water conditions, but that is no reason to let our guard down now,” said Dr. Michael Anderson, State Climatologist with DWR. “With three record-setting multi-year droughts in the last 15 years and warmer temperatures, a well above average snowpack is needed to reach average runoff. The wild swings from dry to wet that make up today’s water years make it important to maintain conservation while managing the runoff we do receive. Our water years moving forward will see more extreme dry times interrupted by very wet periods like we saw this winter.”

That need to adapt to a changing climate is why Governor Gavin Newsom joined today’s snow survey at Phillips Station to announce the release of the California Water Plan Update 2023. The Water Plan Update sets forth a vision for all Californians to benefit from water resources that are sustainable, resilient to climate change and achieves equity for all communities and benefits the environment. Check out the Water Plan Update to learn more about how the plan focuses on key issues including addressing climate urgency, strengthening watershed resilience, and achieving equity in water management.

As part of the state’s climate adaptation efforts, over the past two years, California has worked with local groundwater agencies and state and federal partners to capture as much water as possible to prepare for the next drought. In 2023, more than 1.2 million acre-feet of groundwater recharge was permitted by state agencies, with nearly 400,000 acre-feet of flood water recharged using the Executive Orders issued by Governor Newsom.

On average, the Sierra snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs. Its natural ability to store water is why the Sierra snowpack is often referred to as California’s “frozen reservoir.” Data from these snow surveys and forecasts produced by DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit are important factors in determining how DWR provides water to 27 million Californians and manages the state’s water resources.

DWR conducts five snow surveys at Phillips Station each winter near the first of each month, January through April and, if necessary, May.

For California’s current hydrological conditions, visit https://cww.water.ca.gov.

Suggested Resources

15 RESOURCES prev next
Coalition Letter: Proposed Rule for Principles, Requirements and Guidelines for Water Resources

To: Acting Director for Policy and Legislation, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army Subject: Agency Proposed Rule for Specific […]

2024 Water Awareness Month Toolkit

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Priority Issues Bulletin

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Southern California Steelhead Status Review Submission to Commission

Agency: California Fish and Game Commission Subject: California Department of Fish and Wildlife Southern California Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) Status Review Submission […]

Regulatory Roundup

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Proposed Making Conservation a California Way of Life Regulation Comment Letter

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Comment Letter – Proposed Making Conservation a California Way of Life Regulation Letter excerpt: […]

Quench Toolkit Spring 2024

ACWA is encouraging member agencies to utilize these resources to take advantage of ACWA’s QuenchCA campaign branding and provide broader […]

2023 Year In Review

ACWA’s “2023 Year in Review” outlines ACWA’s advocacy wins, awards and services provided to members, as well as events and […]

Groundwater Awareness Week 2024 Toolkit

ACWA encourages member agencies to participate in National Groundwater Awareness Week March 10-16 to raise the public’s awareness of groundwater […]

Dam Safety Fact Sheet

ACWA, along with the California Municipal Utilities Association and California Alliance for Jobs, has released a Dam Safety Fact Sheet, […]

Making Conservation a CA Way of Life Fact Sheet – January 2024

  ACWA’s Making Conservation a California Way of Life Fact Sheet provides a summary of the State Water Board’s draft regulatory […]

Comment Letter on Sacramento/Delta Draft Staff Report

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Comment Letter – Sacramento/Delta Draft Staff Report Letter excerpt: The Association of California Water […]

Comments on Proposed Updates to the Drinking Water Cost Assessment Model

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Proposed Updates to the Drinking Water Cost Assessment Model: Other Essential Infrastructure, Admin Needs, […]

Draft White Paper: Proposed Updates for the 2024 Drinking Water Needs Assessment

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Draft White Paper Discussion On: Proposed Updates for the 2024 Drinking Water Needs Assessment […]

Division of Drinking Water Reporting Toolkit

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Suggested News

15 Articles prev next
Sutton Named GM at Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District

WILLOWS – Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) named Jeff Sutton as its new General Manager, effective May 1. Sutton, an attorney, […]

April 19, 2024 ACWA News Available

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Local Control Remains Key to SGMA’s Success as Act Notches 10th Year

Signed into law during a severe drought, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act turns 10 this year during a much wetter […]

Spotlight April 2024: Members Share Thoughts on SGMA at 10-Year Milestone

Aaron Fukuda keeps wondering when he’ll see Porsches and Ferraris driving past his office in rural Tulare County. But so […]

MWDOC Hosts Earth Day Event at Coronet Park

Since 1970, Americans have celebrated Earth Day, and over the past five decades, we’ve increased what we know about preserving […]

State Water Board Adopts Rulemaking for Chromium-6 MCL

The State Water Resources Control Board today adopted a new Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 10 parts per billion (ppb) […]

Groups Release Video Supporting Voluntary Agreements

Today, the State Water Contractors and Northern California Water Association released a short, informative video about the Agreements to Support […]

JCSD Crowned as California’s Wastewater Collection System of the Year

The Jurupa Community Services District (JCSD) is proud to announce its award as the Wastewater Collection System of the Year […]

EBMUD Board Welcomes New Member

OAKLAND – The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) welcomes a new board member to represent Lafayette, Alamo, Diablo, Danville, […]

9th Circuit Upholds SCV Water Judgement for Remediation of Groundwater Contamination

On April 15, 2024, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed a $68.5 million judgment for SCV […]

Orange County Water District Swiftly Responds to EPA PFAS Ruling

FOUNTAIN VALLEY – The Orange County Water District (OCWD) and its 19 retail water providers are intensifying their collaborative efforts […]

Sacramento-Area Water Providers Launch Summer Strong Yard Contest

Did you ditch the thirsty lawn, add vibrant low-water native plants, or install water-wise drip irrigation? Is your yard ready […]

April 2024 Priority Issues Update Now Available

The April 2024 Priority Issues Update is now available online to members. The update is a summary of the latest […]

EPA Announces National Regulation for PFAS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a new national maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 4.0 parts per trillion (ppt) […]

DSRSD Adopts New Energy Policy to Enhance Sustainability and Efficiency

DUBLIN – On February 20, 2024, the Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) Board of Directors unanimously adopted a new […]