Wednesday April 12, 2023

San Francisco Chronicle

Watersheds across California will face well-above-average snowmelt runoff as temperatures warm up in the coming months, according to a forecast released Monday by the Department of Water Resources. In the Tulare Lake basin, the April-July forecast exceeds 400% of average in the Tule and Kern River watersheds.

All this runoff comes courtesy of the state’s epic snowpack — potentially the largest ever recorded. In the northern Sierra, the snowpack is currently just under 200% of average and trails the snowpack of 1982-83. But in the southern Sierra, which received the brunt of this winter’s relentless atmospheric rivers, the snowpack is over 300% of average and well past records from previous years.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” said Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center. “How that snowpack evolves is going to be really important.”

The forecasts by the Department of Water Resources reflect unimpaired runoff, water that comes from a river basin unimpeded — the figures do not account for water management measures. Watersheds in the Sacramento River basin are expected to see April-July runoff levels that far exceed the 30-year average. The Feather River at Oroville, for example, is forecast to see 3.2 million acre-feet of water, or 187% of average.

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