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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.