Snow pack for Kern River watershed at 39% of normal

March 1, 2022
by Lois Henry
A monthly publication tracking snow and water in the Kern River watershed put out by water watcher Scott Williams.
Lois Henry

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Local water watcher Scott Williams put out his monthly Kern River watershed report Tuesday and the outlook is skimpy without more storms before May.

Williams compiles stats from a number of publicly available sources, including state electronic snow sensors, called “pillows,” stashed in the upper reaches of the watershed and compares them to historic trends. He crunches the numbers and issues a report from Nov. 1 to June 1 for fellow water watchers to follow all the ups and downs.

And that has been the case for this water year – very up and down.

“Current conditions: October was good. November was a bust. December was great. January and February not good!” is Williams’ summation of the water year so far.

As of March 1, the snowpack is 39% of the annual April 1 benchmark for snow water content, Williams reports. He adds the helpful explanation that the term “snow water content or equivalent” is water geek lingo for how much water experts anticipate will be released when the snow melts.

What that means for the Kern River is a predicted 40% of average flow, making “2022 the third lowest annual runoff since 1962,” Williams reports.

For comparison, the observed river flow in 2021 was 20% of average and the second lowest since 1961.

Williams’ report is making the rounds and even the Kern River Watermaster, Mark Mulkay has become a fan.

“He does a good job gleaning through all the information that’s available on five or six state and federal websites and pulls out specific information,” Mulkay said. “It’s a pretty handy report and I’ve even used it in a couple things I’ve sent out.

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.

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