published on February 26, 2016 - 12:16 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

The Kings River Water Association (KRWA) reported today that although there is “much more snow” on Kings River watershed slopes than there was a year ago, “late winter snowpack conditions and water outlooks are being plagued by dry weather and remain below average.”

KRWA officials said that “unless significant storm events resume soon and occur into the spring, drought conditions are increasingly likely to continue through a fifth consecutive water year.”

“The good news is that we’re not far below average but much more snow and rain is going to be required to turn 2016 into the really wet year we need,” said Kings River Watermaster Steve Haugen, who manages the KRWA.

Reports from 18 courses measured this week for the March 1 California Cooperative Snow Survey show the Kings River snowpack water content averaging 76 percent of the normal for April 1, the date when Sierra Nevada snow accumulation typically reaches its springtime maximum.

Eight courses measured by the KRWA, mostly above the river’s South Fork, had slightly better water content at 78 percent. At this point in the season in a normal year, water content readings should be 86 percent of the April 1 average.

Lower elevation courses (below 8,500 feet) generally had water content readings that were closer to the April 1 average.

The greatest snow depths measured were 81 inches at Mitchell Meadow in the South Fork drainage and 79 inches at Upper Burnt Corral above the North Fork. The least was 40 inches at Horse Corral Meadow, southeast of Hume Lake.

Snow water content ranged from 28 inches at Mitchell Meadow and 27 inches at Upper Burnt Corral to 15.5 inches at Horse Corral Meadow.

All of these measurements are vast improvements from those recorded for 2015’s March 1 snow survey, Haugen said. “A year ago at this time, the Kings River basin average was only 16 percent of the normal for April 1 and the greatest snowpack water content was just 11 inches at Upper Burnt Corral,” he said.

The most recent California Department of Water Resources update of runoff, issued Thursday, continues an overall decline in predicted full natural flow (as if there were no dams or reservoirs) that began earlier in February with the current dry weather pattern.

The current forecast calls for Kings River runoff during the crucial April-through-July peak snowmelt season to be 74 percent of average, or 910,000 acre-feet. That assumes normal amounts of precipitation will occur for the remainder of the season.

A “worst-case” forecast, reflecting continued dry conditions, indicates runoff could total 610,000 acre-feet, 49 percent of average.

The DWR is expected to issue a new prediction, based upon the recent snow survey findings, in early March.

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