Stretching along the eastern edge of the state, the Sierra Nevada region incorporates more than 25 percent of California’s land area and forms one of the world’s most diverse watersheds.
It features granite cliffs, lush forests and alpine meadows on the westside, and stark desert landscapes at the base of the eastside. Wildlife includes bighorn sheep, mule deer, black bear and mountain lions, hawks, eagles, and trout.
The majority of total annual precipitation – in the form of rain and snow – falls in the Sierra Nevada. Snowmelt from the Sierra provides water for irrigation for farms that produce half of the nation’s fruit, nuts and vegetables, and also is a vital source for dairies, which have made California the largest milk producer in the country.
In addition, Sierra snowmelt provides drinking water to Sierra Nevada residents and a portion of drinking water to 23 million people living in cities stretching from the Bay Area to Southern California.
I [Kevin MacMillan] moved to the Tahoe in July 2007, meaning this is my eighth winter* here. “Winter” has an asterisk next to it because even I know, with my meager experience here, that what we’re currently enduring is (hopefully?) some sort of anomaly.
Because of the lack of snow depth, the U.S. Forest Service has asked snowmobile users in the Lake Tahoe Basin to avoid bare dirt and patchy snow, and not to ride across streams or over small trees and brush.
Today, snow sensors scattered through the Sierra, satellite imagery and aerial flybys augment the 106-year-old “manual survey.” The technology helps to provide a clearer update of California’s water conditions that water agencies depend on to perform the increasingly crucial job of managing our diminishing water supply for the rest of the year.
Traditionally California’s wettest month, January’s meager rainfall has produced a miniscule improvement in the crucial winter snowpack in the Sierra Nevada that historically provides about 30 percent of the state’s water needs.
The latest survey of California’s mountain snowpack on Thursday brought the bad news slamming home: This month will rank as the driest January in state history at many locations, virtually assuring a fourth straight year of drought. On Thursday, the statewide snowpack was 25 percent of normal for the date.
As California caps what may be its driest January on record, Frank Gehrke will lead a bevy of surveyors on Thursday to a predetermined spot on Echo Summit in an exercise that has become a monthly downer in the documentation of the state’s historic drought.
A popular cross-country ski area near Lake Tahoe has temporarily closed due to a lack of snow, and forecasters say the lingering drought should persist or get worse in the months ahead across most of California and Nevada.
The 862-acre mountain that rises to 8,200 feet — a relatively small site by California standards — was the latest in two days to ground operations as January temperatures climb to near-record highs and weeks pass without wet weather.
Meteorologists are currently watching a weak El Niño event simmering in the Pacific Ocean, waiting and wondering if it will ever get strong enough to possibly produce a healthy Sierra snowpack to help improve drought conditions.
Snow levels that didn’t quite measure up turned a snowshoe party in the Sierra into an exercise in hand-wringing on Tuesday as it became clear that recent storms have done little to end California’s historic drought.
Measurements of Sierra Nevada snowpack on Tuesday [Dec. 30] showed more snow than surveyors recorded a year ago. But state water officials said it was far from enough to signal a potential end to California’s continuing drought.
Forty-five years ago, in December 1969, President Richard Nixon signed a unique Bi-State Compact approving California and Nevada’s plan to create the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. It was the first such undertaking of its kind, uniting two states, six local jurisdictions, and the federal government in a shared mission to protect Lake Tahoe’s sensitive environment from overdevelopment.
Buoyed by big December storms, the snowpack is about 150 percent of where it usually is at this time in the year, according to the California Department of Water Resources. And more may be on the way, weather forecasters said.
With a string of storms pummeling the Sierra Nevada, Mother Nature gifted a December dump of powder just in time for the holidays. That means sledding, building snowmen, carving snow angels and snowball fights.
Along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, runoff pollution from abandoned mines in “Gold Country” could threaten California’s primary water supply. A pilot project at one mine site is intended to prevent contaminated runoff from reaching the Yuba River.
At lower elevations, Lake Tahoe still hasn’t donned its rich, white winter coat. … But while they produced rain at the lake itself, this week’s storms have transformed the mountains ringing the lake into snow-capped beauties.
Following a storm that dropped upward of 10 inches of snow on the Sierra Crest over the weekend, both Boreal Mountain Resort and Mount Rose announced Tuesday that they will open to skiers and riders on Friday.
A few years ago I remember getting overly excited about an upcoming storm and its potential for producing a powder day. A friend, a little more grizzled in his Sierra Nevada lifestyle, promptly shut me down with a “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Complete recovery from the drought gripping California and other western states is not likely this winter, according to a recent forecast. … Tahoe’s drought is predicted to persist, according to a NOAA drought outlook map for Oct. 16, 2014, through Jan. 31, 2015, with the potential for slow drought recovery later in winter and early spring for the Sierra.
Visitors eager to snap pictures of black bears eating salmon are creating unsafe conditions at Lake Tahoe’s Taylor Creek Visitor Center, prompting a warning from the U.S. Forest Service. The annual Kokanee salmon run at the visitor center has become a popular tourist spectacle …”
Rangers at Yosemite National Park are in a constant battle to keep wild black bears — with their ultra-keen noses and powerful paws and jaws — far away from humans. … The instances of bears raiding campgrounds and parking lots for human food are up by 35 percent from Jan. 1 to Oct. 19 compared to the same period last year — the second such increase during the state’s three consecutive dry years.
Lingering drought has helped push Lake Tahoe’s water level below its natural rim for the first time in five years, cutting off flows into the Truckee River, which has been reduced to a shallow stream as it meanders down the Sierra through Reno.
On a local level, the Truckee Donner Land Trust has executed roughly 42 purchases — some funded with public money — overall varying in size from about 300 acres to more than 7,000 acres of open space since 1990, when a small group of hikers bought a 160-acre parcel in the Coldstream Valley near Donner Lake.
A coalition of advocacy groups on Monday challenged the government’s denial of federal protections for the snow-loving wolverine, arguing in a lawsuit that officials disregarded evidence a warming climate will eliminate denning areas for the so-called “mountain devil.”
Rugged and isolated, the Rubicon River Valley on the border of El Dorado and Placer counties was for many years an idyll of old growth trees and icy swimming holes. … Experts now worry that the devastation and the extreme temperatures of the fire, which scorched much of the soil and reduced its ability to hold together and absorb runoff, could lead to floods and mudslides when winter storms arrive.
The Sierra Nevada water year for 2014 ended on Sept. 30 and the snowfall and precipitation totals aren’t pretty. The 194.5 inches of snowfall measured last season at the Central Sierra Snow Lab tied with 1924 as third least snowiest since 1879, well under the 409 inch seasonal average.
A report released this week shows that many Sierra Nevada forests are in critical condition, and that natural benefits they provide — such as clean air and water — are at risk from large, intense fire.
This 28-page report describes the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada region and details their importance to California’s overall water picture. It describes the region’s issues and challenges, including healthy forests, catastrophic fire, recreational impacts, climate change, development and land use.
The report also discusses the importance of protecting and restoring watersheds in order to retain water quality and enhance quantity. Examples and case studies are included.
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Truckee River Basin, including the Newlands Project, Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe. Map text explains the issues surrounding the use of the Truckee-Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe water quality improvement efforts, fishery restoration and the effort to reach compromise solutions to many of these issues.
This 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, illustrates the water resources available for Nevada cities, agriculture and the environment. It features natural and manmade water resources throughout the state, including the Truckee and Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake and the course of the Colorado River that forms the state’s eastern boundary.
Fashioned after the popular California Water Map, this 24×36 inch poster was extensively re-designed in 2017 to better illustrate the value and use of groundwater in California, the main types of aquifers, and the connection between groundwater and surface water.
A new look for our most popular product! And it’s the perfect gift for the water wonk in your life.
Our 24×36 inch California Water Map is widely known for being the definitive poster that shows the integral role water plays in the state. On this updated version it is easier to see California’s natural waterways and manmade reservoirs and aqueducts - including federally, state and locally funded projects - the wild and scenic rivers system, and natural lakes. The map features beautiful photos of California’s natural environment, rivers, water projects, wildlife, and urban and agricultural uses and the text focuses on key issues: water supply, water use, water projects, the Delta, wild and scenic rivers and the Colorado River.
Travel across the state on Amtrak’s famed California Zephyr, from the edge of sparkling San Francisco Bay, through the meandering channels of the Delta, past rich Central Valley farmland, growing cities, historic mining areas and into the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The East Fork begins in the mountains of California’s Sonora Pass and after flowing through California and Nevada, it meets the West Fork just south of Carson City. The West Fork forms at California’s Carson Pass, running through California and into Nevada to its junction with the East Fork.