Snowpack improves but lags below average

When surveyors climbed a peak in the Sierra Nevada Tuesday, they found a welcome sight that wasn’t there last year: snow.

Gov. Jerry Brown infamously made the trek to Phillips Station on April 1, 2015, and stood on dry grass where every year for the previous 75 years there had been snow.

Governors usually don’t accompany surveyors on snowpack measurement missions, but standing there Brown did another thing no sitting governor had ever done before: he mandated that all Californians reduce their water use by 25 percent.

While this year’s wet winter has left the drought-ridden state in far better shape than it was last year, snowpack levels are still below average and officials with the state Department of Water Resources are still urging conservation.

Surveyors found 58.4 inches of snow at Phillips Station this year with a water content 97 percent of the long-term historical average.

Statewide, the snowpack water content is at 87 percent of average, according to state water officials.

Snowpack is estimated to be at its highest at about this time of year, as winter ends and the mountain snow begins to melt. Mountain runoff helps keep reservoirs full throughout the year so it’s vital to have sufficient snowpack to last through the dry months.

So while California’s drought conditions aren’t as dire as they were last year, the heavy rains this winter haven’t been enough to end them entirely.