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Drought realizations settling in for California

Snow water equivalents are showing a big need to take action now

CALIFORNIA, USA — April 1 is the peak season for snowpack. However, another straight year of drought is causing more concern for water resources.

The Central Sierra snow lab has recorded 310 inches of snowfall to date - not to be mistaken for the snow depth which regards the snow compacted after it falls and is the result of what's been lost to the soil or ground.

Palisades Tahoe is recording a snow depth of 90 inches at the upper mountain base. It’s not terrible, but it's also not great.

California’s Department of Water Resources shows the Central Sierra with a water equivalent of 13 inches of water. That’s only 43% of average, meaning the snow water equivalent should be closer to about 30 inches this time of year.

Credit: CA Dept. of Water Resources

“If we look at just the long term trend, we kind of went from over 100 inches of snow to about 80 inches of snow in the last several decades. But in the coming decades, if we don't do anything, we're looking at 20 inches of snow, and that's up in elevation that's at mid mountain” said Heather Segale with the Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

UC Davis and the Tahoe Environmental Research Center is hoping to help the public understand their research and findings. They’ve launched the “Save our Snow” campaign. The campaign uses an Instagram filter to see the potential regression of snow that’s expected with climate change through 2050.

“A problem like climate change is that it’s a slow moving crisis. It’s the worst kind of problem because it leaves you not feeling like your individual action can do something, but we can” Segale said.

The campaign’s website also features a way to figure out how to lower your carbon footprint. The carbon footprint calculator adds up your efforts to stop emitting 1 ton of carbon emissions by doing small things like riding a bike, carpooling and limiting your waste.

Segale said the campaign shares the realities of the dwindling snowpack for not just skiers and snowboarders, but for all of us who rely on the snowpack for our reservoirs.

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