Snowiest March in 27-Years Fills Lake Tahoe with Enough Water for Three Years

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Lake Tahoe. credit:

On March 1st, the Lake Tahoe basin snowpack was at just 25 percent of average, but after a near Miracle March, Lake Tahoe is once again holding enough water to supply Reno for as many as three years, reports Reno Gazette Journal.

“We will expect to be brim-full at both Boca and Stampede, just like last year,” said Dave Wathen, chief deputy water master in Reno. “If we have a full Tahoe that typically gets us through three dry years.”

During a snow survey on Monday at Slide Mountain, Wathen said Lake Tahoe is within about a foot of its legal storage limit with more rain and snow on the way. That means officials are already releasing water into the Truckee River because they anticipate coming runoff will replenish the lake.

“March 1 we were looking at potentially not filling the reservoirs,” Wathen said. “Now it is looking like we will fill easily, and spill. So we are in good shape.”

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Hydrologist Jeff Anderson of the Natural Resources Conservation Service records the final snow survey of the 2017-18 winter on Slide Mountain near Reno. Credit: Benjamin Spillman/RGJ

The snowpack in the Lake Tahoe and Truckee River basins increased by 43 percentage points during the month. The Carson Basin jumped 46 points, the Walker Basin 47 and the Humboldt Basin 21.

Only three times has the Tahoe Basin seen more snow in March, said Jeff Anderson, hydrologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In the Miracle March of 1991 the snowpack in the Sierra, on average, was about 15 percent of normal heading into March of that year before finishing around 70 percent. This winter the snowpack, on average, was at about 32 percent of normal and jumped to 77 percent.

Despite a big month that boosted Nevada out of a drastically low snow situation, the snowpack throughout the region is still lower than normal.

In the Sierra Nevada, the snowpack is about 70 to 80 percent of typical spring peak levels. And in parts of northern and eastern Nevada snowpack levels are at just 55 percent of normal.

“Now we are in a situation where the reservoirs are going to be great again for this summer,” Anderson said. “If you are depending on natural stream flow and you don’t have a reservoir to get water from then you are more in a drought situation.”

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