FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The Kings River Water Association (KRWA) announced that these winter’s major storm events have created a snowpack at high Sierra Nevada elevations that is already far above what is considered ‘normal water’ content on April 1 when the winter’s snow conditions are typically considered to have reached their ‘maximum’, according to KRWA officials.
They say preliminary numbers including snow depth, snow water equivalent, and other factors indicate the present Kings basin snowpack could generate 130% to 140% of spring runoff.
That is a water supply that will not run off until the snow starts melting with warmer weather.Steve Haugen, Kings River Water Association Watermaster
KRWA officials say last year’s winter snowpack accumulation and water content got off to what on Feb. 1, 2022, was just above average for end-of-January conditions.
They added runoff prospects in the late winter and spring of 2023 fell steadily after virtually no precipitation fell over Central California after New Year’s resulting in a third consecutive drought year.
But this year’s water supply is already on the ground and any additional amount of snow will just add to it. Officials say the Kings Basin’s average water equivalent found in KRWA’s survey and those taken by PG&E was 42 inches with an average snow depth of 117 inches.
This data collection was made for the California Cooperative Snow Survey.
The report says the greatest water content found in the snowpack was 56 inches at Rattlesnake Creek located at an elevation of 9,900 feet and tributary to the Kings River’s North Fork. That snow course also had the biggest snow depth at 158 inches.
The recent massive storm events which are spawned by nine atmospheric rivers funneling heavy amounts of moisture into California also brought well above average amounts of rain to the valley floor.
The Sierra foothills and mountains below the 6,500-foot level. Although officials say much of that rainfall soaked into drought-parched soils, significant amounts of rain-generated runoff into the Kings River’s Pine Flat Reservoir – which is currently reporting over half full.
The season’s first runoff forecasts for the Kings and other Sierra Nevada rivers should be available on Feb, 9.