Cities, Farmers, Ski Resorts Sweat Out the Snowpack

“Better late than never”is about all you can say if you’re keeping a wary eye on the Sierra snowpack. Winter finally arrived in the Lake Tahoe region, just in time for Christmas skiers–but maybe not in time for water consumers looking ahead to next summer.

As of Christmas Day, the three key reservoirs in northern California were all at less than half of their “normal” levels for this time of year; Shasta (47%), Oroville (45%) and Folsom (44%). Oroville, a critical link in the State Water Project, was at just 22% of its total capacity.

With the winter’s first hands-on Sierra snow survey coming up next week, Elissa Lynn, Sr. Meteorologist for DWR tells me that readings from the network of automated snow sensors indicate that we’re about 15% of the way toward a full “normal” season (as measured on April 1st). That means we have a lot of catching up to do.

Ski resorts are already having a lean year and as Tom Knudson writes in today’s Sacramento Bee, some are looking ahead to when climate change might cause this kind of year to become the norm.