Gov. Gavin Newsom surveys California snowpack, unveiling water plan for an uncertain future

Ari Plachta, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Weather News

Surrounded by a blanket of snow, Gov. Gavin Newsom donned snowshoes Tuesday to observe officials surveying this year’s snowpack and unveil a new California water resources plan that factors in climate realities.

The snowpack across the state was measured at a little above average — a rarity after recent swings between extreme drought and last year’s record snowpack at double the historic average.

But the governor warned Californians not to get comfortable as climate change makes the Sierra reserves less reliable. State water officials forecast that water supply from melting snow will shrink by 10% in two decades.

“There’s nothing normal about this average year,” Newsom said from Phillips Station, located along Highway 50 near Echo Summit. The Department of Water Resources held its final in-person survey of the current water year at the site.

“The hots are getting a lot hotter, the dries drier, and that requires us to have a sophistication of approach.”

The key metric of snow water equivalent was measured Tuesday at a statewide average of 28.6 inches – 110% of normal for April 1, state water officials said.


During the previous monthly snow survey, on Feb. 29, state officials measured statewide snow water equivalent at 18 inches – 80% of normal for the start of March and 70% of the April 1 average. Major storms in early March, including blizzard conditions in the Lake Tahoe area, helped boost the snow level.

“Average is awesome,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the Department of Water Resources. “But average may be becoming less and less common of a feature for snowpack in California.”

Climate change is leading to rising temperatures, scientists say, which will lead to more of the atmosphere’s water falling as rain rather than snow. Higher temperatures also lead to faster snowmelt, diminishing the snowpack.

As for this year, Nemeth said, weather patterns over the next couple of months will determine how much of today’s snow turns into water supplies this spring and summer.


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