Sierra snowpack shows promise for California's water supply, experts say

Snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range is a beautiful and welcomed sight.

When it snows, it can affect drought conditions and water supplies hundreds of miles away in the Southern California area. How much is determined by the snowpack.

"The snowpack is about 30 percent of our water storage in California. During the winter months we build up our reservoirs, we build up the snowpack. But during our summer months as the water is used and the snowpack starts to melt away, it replenishes the reservoirs," Chris Orrock with the California Department of Water Resources said.

The California Department of Water Resources has been measuring snowpacks since 1941 at the Phillips Station off of Highway 50 at Sierra Tahoe Road.

Orrock explained how surveyors measure the snow using a long, hollow pole.

"They put the pole down to the ground until they get down to the soil, then they bring it up and they'll measure how deep the snow is - that's one aspect," Orrock said. "But then also, they'll weigh it and they know that for every ounce of snow that is in the measuring pole is 1 inch of snow-water equivalent."

As many as 260 snow courses are monitored through the Sierra. At the location FOX 11 visited in Sierra County, surveyors were taking two to three measurements at six different points.

"April 1st is when we see the deepest snow and the most water in snow. We're already over 120 percent of our April 1st average, and we still have the whole month of March to go," Orrock said.

The recent average is a dramatic difference to 2015 when California experienced a record low snowpack.

During the drought, then Governor Jerry Brown was forced to issue an executive order mandating substantial water reduction across the state of California.

However, experts say this year is showing a lot promise for California's water supply.

"This February is looking to shape up as one of the wettest on record in California. In January and February of this year, we've already received more precipitation than all of last year combined," Orrock said.

A recent report by the U.S. Drought Monitor also found that the significant amount of rain California received over the past month has significantly reduced the drought conditions across the state. More than 67 percent of the state was found to be free of all dryness and drought conditions.