Sierra snowpack makes dent in drought

The water content of Sierra Nevada snowpack is above normal levels, the California Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday.

Though the snowpack’s water content was measured at 136 percent of normal levels in an annual survey, state water officials are urging against believing the drought emergency is at an end.

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, said in a statement:

“… more than four years of drought have left a water deficit around the state that may be difficult to overcome.”

The remainder of the winter will in large part determine how much the state has recovered from the drought, Gehrke added.

Gehrke said:

“We haven’t had the full effect of the El Niño yet. … If we believe the forecasts, then El Niño is supposed to kick in as we move through the rest of the winter. That will be critical when it comes to looking at reservoir storage.”

The state’s largest six reservoirs currently hold between 22 percent and 53 percent of their historical averages for December, according to the Department of Water Resources.

These reservoirs rely on runoff from the Sierra Nevada’s snowpack, which water officials said typically supplies about 30 percent of the state’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer.