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Snowpack, water-storage picture brightens

Sierra surveys indicate above average moisture-content levels
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Sierra is holding above-average levels of snow for this time of year, boosting Nevada Irrigation District and Placer County Water Agency water-supply expectations. The irrigation district reported today that snow-moisture measurements at high-altitude areas of the mountain watershed show January and February storms boosted levels to 122 percent of average. That compares with 72 percent a year earlier, said district snow surveyor Sue Sindt. We are optimistic about this year's water supply, Sindt said. Measurements from mid-elevation Sierra snow courses impressed the most. At just below 5,000 feet, the Deer Creek watershed had some of the highest measurements recorded since snow surveys started for the district in 1986. The official March 1 snow survey “ conducted between Feb. 26 and last Monday “ provides measurements from six mountains at elevations from 4,850 feet to 7,800 feet. Snow surveyors measure snowpack depth and water content. Average water content for five mountain courses was measured at 37 inches “ which equals 122 percent of the historic March 1 average of 30.2 inches. The district's highest peak “ Webber Peak at 7,800 feet “ had 102.8 inches of snow and a water content of 37.7 inches. The snowmelt feeds downstream reservoirs and the district is also reporting adequate storage totals in those locations. Last week, the district's water storage stood at 160,900 acre-feet, which equals 64 percent of capacity and 94 percent of average for that date. A member of the statewide snow survey cooperative, the district makes measurements in February, March and April. Measurements on Placer County Water Agency watershed snow-storage courses Friday showed snowpack water content between 123 percent and 142 percent of average. Like the Nevada Irrigation District, the Placer County agency measurements showed higher snowpack in lower elevations, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. hydrographer Matt McPheeters said. The highest snow depth was recorded at Wabena Meadows, near the Sugar Bowl Ski resort, where 105.6 inches was recorded. Of that total, 38.2 inches in straight water content was measured in the snow. The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com, or post a comment at auburnjournal.com.