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.
Among firs and cedars high in the Sierra Nevada, scientists are using an array of instruments to monitor the health of the forest, measure the snowpack and track the water that melts and seeps into the soil. … Already, as the winters have grown warmer, the snow has been melting earlier after storms pass.
We were gliding downhill along a river buried in snow, our skis skimming a thin layer of fresh powder toward the setting sun and a wall of darkening clouds. … In California, snow isn’t just for skiers.
Don’t give up on that season ski pass just yet, Tahoe locals. The Monday morning powder dump that disrupted commutes in Reno served as an exclamation point for the 2015-16 season which is likely to be the longest in more than a decade.
The Sierra snowpack is actually below the historic average, but skier visits, hotel stays and the number of people spending money in the Lake Tahoe area are way up. It’s a welcome turn from last year, when the drought left resorts virtually empty.
The northern Sierra has seen nearly double the average precipitation since the beginning of March. It may seem hard to believe after such a dry February, but some of California’s largest reservoirs have approached flood operations.
An unwelcome three-week winter dry spell left the California snowpack at just 83 percent of average, a setback for the state as it tries to break out of record drought, state snow surveyors found Tuesday.
SACRAMENTO –The statewide snowpack – source of much of the California’s water supply – is only 83 percent of the March 1 average, the result of moderate precipitation since last October and relatively warm temperatures.
Any sign of precipitation in the forecast is a welcome sight for Californians these days. But with temperatures expected to be above normal this winter, California’s snowpack may not reach the heights it could.
Money from a controversial “fire prevention” fee paid by many California foothill and mountain residents will be used to cut down trees that are dead or dying because of the drought and bark beetle infestation.
Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the California Department of Water Resources, says the snowpack measurement was 130 percent of average at Phillips Station off Highway 50 near Sierra-at-Tahoe Road.
After four years of drought and the arrival of great snow conditions, a high-end crowd is arriving at Tahoe for the ski season and driving up prices across the board, topped by peak events like the Super Bowl and the holidays.
Tuolumne County has received a $70.4 million grant to restore part of the Rim fire zone, build a plant that turns wood into energy and building materials, and create a center for job training and other services.
A series of storms passing over Northern California are expected to drench residents in rain and dump up to 2 feet of snow on the northern Sierra Nevada, a precious water resource the state relies on in the spring, the National Weather Service said.
After taking the measurement and leaving a path of boot prints in his wake, Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, told a group of tightly bundled reporters that the snowpack was “encouraging, but still obviously not where we’d like to be.”
It’s shaping up as the biggest snowstorm to hit the central Sierra in two years. … After four years of drought, its reservoirs are dry: Folsom Lake last week hit its lowest point since record-keeping began 40 years ago.
This is Bean Meadow in Mariposa County in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The [Sierra Foothill] Conservancy has embarked on a project to return 39 acres back to what it once was, before people built roads and ditches and turned it into ranchland in the 19th century.
Thanks in part to El Niño, a series of strong storms have blanketed the Sierras with snow. Another storm this week is expected to deliver another layer of the white stuff — and draw skiers back to resorts.
A massive storm, reaching across about half of the state, is expected to move in Tuesday and peak Wednesday, where it will drop up to 18 inches of snow on mountain summits from Shasta County and Lake Tahoe to Yosemite, said Nathan Owen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.
Should El Niño not live up to the hype and dump heavy snow on the Sierra, skiers and sledders at one resort could be gliding downhill this winter on snow that comes from an unusual source: purified water from the local sewage-treatment plant.
The atmosphere on the ski slopes around Lake Tahoe was giddy this week as beleaguered resort operators planned their earliest opening in years, a response to November storms and cold temperatures that allowed them to supplement nature by making snow.
With portions of the Tahoe region reporting 465 percent above the average snowpack following the first winter storm of the season, Monday, Nov. 2, it’s clear the Sierra Nevada is in for a winter for the ages. Right?
Lamenting “the worst epidemic of tree mortality” in the state’s modern history, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday sought federal aid to remove dead trees from California forests and called for more controlled burns to reduce the risk of wildfire.
Giant Sequoias growing in California’s Sierra Nevada are among the largest and oldest living things on earth, but scientists climbing high up into their green canopies say they are seeing symptoms of stress caused by the state’s historic drought.
Armed with evidence captured by surveillance cameras, California regulators have ordered a business to stop tapping Sierra Nevada spring water that is later bottled and sold in stores, officials said Wednesday.
The lawmakers convening Monday for a major Lake Tahoe conference confront a Capitol Hill conflict over how best to protect the much-beloved mountain region. They differ over money, environmental laws, timber harvesting and more.
When elected officials from California and Nevada meet Monday for the 19th annual Lake Tahoe Summit, much attention will be given to the clarity of the lake and protecting the unique basin environment. Part of the discussion must include the health of our national forests and their associated watersheds.
The Giant Sequoias in the Sierra Nevada are one of America’s treasures. But for the first time in the parks history the trees are showing visible signs of exhaustion due to the drought: thin and browning leaves.
More than 10,000 acres of scenic meadows, forests and trout streams in the Sierra Nevada 10 miles west of Lake Tahoe have been preserved in a deal in which environmentalists hope to prove that thinning out overgrown forests can increase California’s water supply.
Fish concerns will force Tulloch Lake to drop sooner than water agencies had announced in a milestone spring accord, while construction work meant to ensure that 7,000 people won’t run out of water for drinking and fire protection has not yet begun.
Frank Cody wasn’t surprised to learn that at least 12 million trees across California recently have died from a lethal mix of bugs and long-term drought. Business is booming for the South Lake Tahoe tree service business owner.
During the July 4 weekend, the U.S. Forest Service issued urgent instructions to hikers and campers to be exceedingly cautious in lighting campfires across California’s tinder dry Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Californians trembled two years ago as 200-foot flames from the Rim fire sent up pyrocumulus clouds visible 100 miles away from the central Sierra Nevada. Burning from August to October, it left a charred footprint nearly the size of Los Angeles — a reminder that the state had just passed through two dry winters.
As California’s prolonged drought dries up irrigation supplies for agriculture and forces cutbacks in urban water deliveries, it also creates opportunities for prospectors and miners panning, sluicing, chiseling and diving for gold.
Lawsuits from environmental groups are snagging badly needed efforts to log forests in California’s fire-prone Sierra Nevada mountains, lawmakers and witnesses told a House of Representatives subcommittee Thursday.
When Andy Wirth became the CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Resort in November 2010, he did so amid a precipitation-laden winter that saw enormous snow loads give skiers at Lake Tahoe plenty of coveted powder days.
The peak of the Lake Tahoe wildflower season is typically somewhere around the middle of July, but, with remaining snow melting away and water in scarce supply, area blooms are off to an early start and may not last long.
South Tahoe Public Utilities District’s (STPUD) hope to have mandatory water reductions reduced drowned on April 17 when the State Water Resources Control Board released revised numbers of California’s water districts.
The fourth year of the devastating drought that has dried up wells, forced mandatory rationing and jeopardized California crops has also put a burden on backcountry skiers in search of their powdery fix.
The Sierra snowpack is a ghastly one-fifth the size of the smallest one ever recorded in the mountain range, state leaders said Wednesday as California’s storm season ended in disappointment for the fourth straight year. … Gov. Jerry Brown, who watched a snow measurement Wednesday at Lake Tahoe, announced the state’s first mandatory water reductions, aiming at cutting water use by 25%.
Standing in a dry brown meadow that typically would be buried in snow this time of year, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday ordered the first mandatory water cutbacks in California history, a directive that will affect cities and towns statewide.
We are officially in uncharted territory. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which typically supplies nearly a third of California’s water, is showing the lowest water content on record: 6 percent of the long-term average for April 1.
The water frozen in snow throughout the Sierra Nevada is 8% of average — less than a third the size of the smallest on record. On Wednesday when this disappointing wet season ends, the headlines will be the next alarm bell in the state’s damaging, four-year drought.
With the state entering its fourth year of drought, some conservationists are looking at thinning Sierra forests to increase the amount of water that flows into area rivers. … On Friday, the Association of California Water Agencies also released its own report that calls for better headwater and forest management – and for better collaboration among federal, state and other agencies, and other stakeholders.
The Lake Don Pedro community is operating in emergency mode. For the last several weeks, work crews have drilled well after well, hoping to find groundwater. … Lake McClure depends entirely on rain and snow runoff from the Merced River watershed.
Levels at Sierra reservoirs that supply water for 1.3 million East Bay customers are as low as they’ve been in nearly 40 years, and it could take a miracle to make them better before the onset of the long dry season, officials were told Tuesday.
With a fourth year of drought looming, state and federal agencies have launched an ambitious partnership to improve the Sierra’s ability to store and filter water, as well as reduce fire risks, by restoring its forests. Called the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program …
Had it not been for a couple of days of snowfall during the weekend, the ground would have been bare, Frank Gehrke of the Department of Water Resources said Tuesday during a snow survey at Philips Station near Sierra-At-Tahoe Road.
Snow levels in the Sierra Nevada are at or below what they were during the driest years in California’s recorded history, surveyors said Tuesday, dashing hopes that last weekend’s storm would begin to pull the state out of its increasingly frightful drought.
California received a double dose of bad drought news on Tuesday, with state officials saying the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is far below normal and that residents again aren’t coming close to meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for a 20 percent cut in water use.
Water consumption statewide declined just 8.8 percent in January compared with the same month of 2013 – far below the state’s goal of 20 percent – according to data presented to the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday.
A storm system heading to Northern California may bring only a fraction of an inch of rain to the Bay Area, but skiers and snowboarders turned desperate by the drought are stoked after learning that nearly a foot of fresh powder could fall in some parts of the Sierra.
This is the fourth lousy winter season in a row for the ski industry, and it has been economically devastating for the area. Some of the smaller resorts are barely hanging on, while larger players are carving out new ways to turn a profit.
While residents’ efforts to conserve water are helping, officials say locals must continue such practices as a multi-year drought grips California and other western states with no immediate relief in sight.
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 man-made 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.