Despite snow, California still in drought

California’s mountain snow holds 160% of the water it normally does this time of year, state water officials announced Thursday, marking a strong start to the drought-stricken state’s traditionally wet winter season.

Still, it’s too early to determine whether California will see enough rain and snow in the months to come to put a dent in the drought.

The state is "definitely not out of the woods quite yet," said Sean de Guzman, manager of the snow surveys and water supply forecasting for the California Department of Water Resources.


The drought monitor maps show slight improvements for California. (National Drought Mitigation Center)

De Guzman spoke at Phillips Station, one of hundreds of locations where state officials make manual or electronic snowpack measurements multiple times per year.

About a third of California’s water supply comes from snow as it melts and flows down from the Sierra Nevada and the Shasta-Trinity mountain range in northern California.

California just finished its second-driest year on record and many of the state’s reservoirs that supply water for tens of millions of people are at historic lows. But several powerful storms swept through the state this month, dumping snow and causing some road closures and major disruptions.

The storms made for a far more positive snow reading than last December, when water levels in the snowpack were at just 52% of the historical average.