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  • Writer's pictureFresno Irrigation

Kings River’s ‘Peak of Season’ Snow Survey Is Far Below Average

April 3, 2020


For More Information, Please Contact:

RANDY McFARLAND, Public Information Consultant, (559) 260-2775

MORE CENTRAL CALIFORNIA STORM ACTIVITY is forecast over the next few days but the damage of winter-time, drought-like weather has likely already been done to the Kings River watershed upon which significant portions of Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties rely. The eight Kings River watershed snow courses measured show snow water content averaging about 46%, less than half of the normal spring peak. Water content readings averaged approximately 12 inches.

Those grim findings were made over the past week as the Kings River Water Association compiled snow survey data for April 1, the date upon which Sierra Nevada snow accumulation typically reaches its seasonal maximum. KRWA was among a much-reduced total number of usual Sierra surveyor agencies taking April 1 measurements because of the coronavirus pandemic. Long-term efforts are under way to establish alternative means of obtaining snowpack information.

Snowpack figures are also low for other central and southern Sierra Nevada watersheds. The California Cooperative Snow Survey, in which the KRWA participates, reported water content averages on April 1 that included: San Joaquin River, 42%; Merced River, 49%; Kaweah River, 38%; Tule River, 22%; and Kern River, 50%.

By contrast, a single snow course east of Sacramento measured by the Department of Water Resources (and heavily reported upon statewide) had April 1 water content that was 66% of average. DWR did acknowledge the statewide average is considerably less than that.

Kings River Watermaster Steve Haugen said Kings River’s seasonal-best snow depth, 55.5 inches, was measured atop 11,200-foot Bishop Pass. The greatest snowpack water content measured was 56% of average at Scenic Meadow, at an elevation of 9,650 feet.

All or most of these totals may grow, perhaps considerably, if a cold Pacific storm system due to hit Central California Saturday evening through Monday (and possibly longer) lives up to its advance billing. Major storm events in April are relatively rare.

DWR and the federal River Forecast Center will be releasing new spring snowmelt runoff forecasts within the next several days, Haugen said.


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