First NID snow survey of the year: snowpack water content below average, reservoir storage above average

February 4, 2020

Despite a light winter, the first snow survey of the year conducted by the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) found storage levels in District reservoirs were slightly above average, although the snowpack was less than average.

NID surveyors found the average water content was 14.7 inches, which is 72 percent of the 20.3-inch average for this time of year at its five highest elevation snow courses within the District’s watersheds. The survey was conducted on Jan. 29-30.

District reservoir storage was 203,800 acre-feet as of Jan. 30. Storage is 75 percent of capacity, which is 104 percent average for this date.

“District storage is above average despite current below average precipitation due to a good snowpack from last winter and a late runoff period,” said Thor Larsen, NID’s Water Resources Superintendent. “The late runoff from the snowpack allowed District reservoirs to maintain storage while meeting downstream demands, resulting in higher than average carry-over storage.”

The first 2020 snowpack survey found: NID’s highest course, Webber Peak (7,800-foot elevation) had 52.5 inches of snow with a water content of 17.1 inches. The English Mountain snow course (7,100 ft.) had 60.5 inches of snow with a water content of 21.9 inches. Webber Lake (7,000 ft.) had 45.3 inches of snow with a water content of 15 inches. Findley Peak (6,500 ft.) had a snowpack of 39.5 inches and a 12.5-inch water content. Bowman Reservoir (5,563 ft.) had 18.6 inches of snow and a 7.1-inch water content.

A sixth snow course, Chalk Bluff, at 4,850 feet on the Deer Creek watershed, had a 7.6-inch snowpack with a 3.1-inch water content (the Chalk Bluff snow course is not included in the five-course average) on Jan. 27.

January did not manifest many significant storms; precipitation measured only 7.14 inches, which is 58 percent of average. The seasonal total at Bowman Lake precipitation measuring station was 78 percent of average at 28.89 inches.

NID relies on the Sierra snowpack as the major water source for the community. The District collects water on 70,000 acres of high mountain watershed. Water from the mountain snowmelt flows into six reservoirs in NID’s mountain division and is transported to three additional foothill reservoirs and ultimately to customers through an extensive water transmission system. NID depends on more than 400 miles of canals and another 300 miles of pipeline to transport water to customers.

“We are hopeful that we make up ground in the second half of the water season; however, we are preparing for dry year operations should it be necessary,” Larsen said.

A member of the California Cooperative Snow Survey, NID conducts three official snow surveys each year in February, March and April. Results of the snow surveys are used to predict water availability locally and statewide.

Sunset over French Lake