The first manual measurements of 2020 have put the Lake Tahoe snowpack at pretty much average for this time of year. Data collected by Jeff Anderson, an NRCS hydrologist, from SNOTEL sites showed snow depth of 54 inches, 16-inch water content and the snowpack to be 107% of normal. This time last year snow depth was 36 inches and water content was 8.9 inches.
“We need an above-average winter to have an average precipitation year,” Anderson told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
However, while the snowpack is average, precipitation is below average at 72% of normal. Due to October and November being dry, the soil remained dry, even after it started snowing. When the snow begins to melt in the spring, the soil will absorb the snowmelt which will lead to a below-average run-off.
Anderson notes there is no need to panic yet about the below-average precipitation:
“It’s not like we can’t make it up,” Anderson said. “There is still a lot of winter left.”
According to Chad Blanchard, Water Master for Truckee and Carson Rivers the water reserves are in a good place:
“Tahoe has a foot and a half to go until it’s full, we don’t want to completely fill it up this early,” Blanchard said.
While SNOTEL sites at 85 locations collect snow and precipitation data on the hour all year round, Anderson takes manual measurements four times a year, at the beginning of January, February, March, and April.