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Early Storms Leave Kings Snowpack Near Average But Dry January Clouds Outlook


IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME since Kings River watershed snowpack and precipitation conditions have been as good as they were ahead of this season’s first snow survey, conducted early this week. Unfortunately, January’s near absence of Sierra Nevada rain and snow is beginning to cast a shadow over what the situation may look like when the snowpack-accumulation season concludes April 1.

Kings River Water Association conducted California Cooperative Snow Surveys Tuesday (January 25), finding the Kings River within the South Fork and Middle Fork drainages had a snowpack just above average for end-of-January conditions and roughly 63% of the April 1 average.

Kings River Watermaster Steve Haugen reported that the snow courses measured by KRWA have an average water content of 15 inches.

Haugen said the 28 KRWA members with entitlements to Kings River water were encouraged with the slightly better than average southern Sierra Nevada snow index since the fall and winter “wet” season began.

He added, however, “The fact is we have a long way to go. The key during every snow and rain season is future storm activity and precipitation. Unfortunately, the region has received little to no precipitation for the past month, which is discouraging.”

California Cooperative Snow Surveyors have until February 3 to collect this important information. Surveyors are busy sampling throughout the state and other locations along the Kings River.

The Department of Water Resources is expected to issue its first 2022 Sierra Nevada river runoff forecasts early in February. That information is of great benefit to water managers for planning spring and summer water supplies and operations.

KRWA found an average snow depth of 40 inches with snowpack water content averaging 15 inches, 107% of normal for February 1. In a normal year that figure would be approximately 14 inches of water content at the survey locations. All that snowpack accumulated occurred during the large storm events prior to January. The best overall snow conditions KRWA found were at Rowell Meadow. There, the snowpack water content was found to be 17.5 inches, with snowpack depth of 47 inches.

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