California’s Drought Near End: Sierra Snowpacks at 22-Year High

Sierra snow (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

California may soon be drought-free after experiencing the highest levels of runoff from the Sierra Nevada snowpack in 22 years.

Runoff from the Sierra snowpack, which provides the Golden State with a third of its water in a good year, stood at the highest level since 1995, according to the Associated Press. “It gives everything a much brighter outlook,” Frank Gehrke, the state’s snow-survey chief, told the AP.

Further, the Sierra Nevada snowpack reportedly stood at 173 percent of its average snowfall on Groundhog Day. The reading took place in a meadow that had been bare of snow at the height of the drought.

Thursday’s snowpack reading by Gehrke took place at Phillips Station. The area had reportedly lacked snow at the height of the drought in 2015.

According to¬†Southern California Public Radio (SCPR), Michael Dettinger, a hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, the storms that hit California placed the state at 108 percent of its normal rain and snow for the whole year. There are still two months left in the Golden State’s rainy season. SCPR noted that California received¬†one-fourth of a normal year’s precipitation at the start of January alone.

Just three years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in California and ordered mandatory water conservation along with fines for water wasters. In some parts of the state, the effort led to what became known as “drought-shaming”, particularly of celebrities who barely felt the pinch of fines for the water overuse.

The snow and rains experienced throughout California over the past few weeks have resulted in the lifting of a statewide water conservation mandate. However, Gov. Brown has not yet ended the state’s drought emergency. It is likely he will wait until April, or the end of the Golden State’s rain and snow season, to lift the emergency status of the crippling five-year drought.

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