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Gov. Newsom attends crucial California snowpack survey: "You can take a deep breath this year"

California's snowpack above average for second straight year
California's snowpack above average for second straight year 02:24

PHILLIPS STATION – The fourth annual snow survey this year is showing that we are just above average for this water year.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom strapped on his snowshoes on Tuesday to take part in the most important survey of the year, one that usually gives the state its peak numbers.

Andy Riesing, an engineer with the California Department of Water Resources, says they recorded 64 inches of snow depth – which is about 27.5 inches snow water content, a little more than 2.5 feet.

That's about 113% of the April 1 snowpack average. 

We asked the governor what all this means for the drought. 

"You can take a deep breath this year, but don't quadruple the amount of time in your shower," Newsom said.

DWR and the governor announced some new focuses in California's water plan through a watershed scale approach – meaning how we integrate forest management, water supply management like more reservoirs and recharging groundwater. 

"It's a good place to be," said DWR engineer Andy Reising who was conducting the snow survey on Tuesday.

The storms slamming the sierra for the past two months created a dramatic turnaround for the water year bringing it just above average.

"We began the water year just as we do every water year in October, bone dry October," said Newsom. "These extremes are becoming a new reality, and this new reality requires a new approach."

The new approach is detailed in the final version of California's Water Plan Update 2023 which was unveiled on Tuesday by the governor and DWR.

The focus this year will be on climate resiliency, and the key is doing the work at the watershed scale.

"One of the hallmarks of this plan is the integration and connection between built infrastructure and natural infrastructure," said Newsom.

Other ways to execute this will be through managing forests that help with water quality, water supply management and how California manages its flood plains in a way that recharges groundwater basins.

So how much of this snow will actually melt and reach reservoirs? DWR says it depends on if it's warm, cold, or if we have more storms. 

"If that comes, we should expect an average runoff," said Reising. "If it doesn't come, we may drop below average."

The Governor's office said there is not one solution to storing all this water, but projects in progress will help combat California's changing climate.

Some of the projects the governor's office highlighted include the Delta Conveyance, which during this year's storms alone, could have captured enough water to supply 9.4 million people.

The Sites Reservoir Project that is also in the works could hold enough water for 3 million households' yearly usage.

The state has invested over $9 million in water projects over the past three years.

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