RENO — Across the region, 2023 already ranks as one of the strongest starts to winter accumulation on record. Snowpacks across Nevada and the Eastern Sierra are 136-258% of median and the near non-stop barrage of storms since Christmas is causing percentages to increase daily with current weather forecasts calling for additional storms through the third week of January.

Based on January 9 NRCS SNOTEL weather station data back to 1981, the Carson River Basin has its greatest snow water amount for this time of year on record. Other notable snow water amounts include Walker River Basin, second highest behind 1997; Humboldt River Basin, third highest behind 1984 and 1989; and Eastern Nevada, fourth highest behind 1984, 2005 and 2011. The Lake Tahoe and Truckee River basins are currently ranked in the top ten and are poised to jump into record territory very soon as snow continues to fall.

“A good start is no guarantee,” said Jeff Anderson, NRCS Water Supply Specialist. “Last year brought record snow to the Sierra in December, but accumulation from January through March was record dry and led to a below normal spring runoff. While chances of such a historic dry period again this year are low, current numbers should be viewed with cautious optimism since snow water amounts are still only about half of what was measured at the end of big winters such as 2019, 2017 and 2011.”

Chad Blanchard, Federal Water Master for the Truckee and Carson Rivers, also expressed cautious optimism over large improvements in drought conditions stating more snow will be needed through the winter to ensure enough storage to meet demands this summer and fall and provide carryover storage going into next year.

“The precipitation that we have received so far has provided a big boost to our water supply,” Blanchard said.  “We came into this winter with Lake Tahoe nearly 6 inches below the natural rim, no water coming out of the dam, a dry river just below the Lake and the other reservoirs at very low levels. As of January 9, Lake Tahoe has gained 1.5 feet and is now one foot above its rim. The significant rain and snow storms have provided enough runoff to meet the required minimum flows in the Truckee River and have allowed storage of water in the other reservoirs in the system which will provide a large benefit going into summer.” 

The most up to date snowpack levels can be tracked on the Nevada NRCS Website, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/wcc/home/quicklinks/states/nevada/. The information can also be found by searching for NRCS Nevada Snow Survey.

Snowpack Conditions 

as of Jan. 9

• Lake Tahoe Basin - Snowpack is 217% of median, 7th highest for date since 1981. Basin snow water content averages 22.2 inches which is 83% of normal springtime peak of 27.0 inches which normally occurs March 28.

• Humboldt Basin (Interstate 80 corridor from Winnemucca to Elko) - Snowpack is 204% of median. 3rd highest for date since 1981. Only 1984 and 1989 had more snow on this date. Basin snow water content averages 11.3 inches which is 78% of normal spring peak of 14.4 inches which normally occurs March 30.

• Eastern Nevada (Route 50 corridor Austin, Eureka and Ely) - Snowpack is 244% of median. 3rd highest for date since 1981. Only 1984, 2005 and 2011 had more snow on this date. Basin snow water content averages 11.6 inches which is 90% of normal spring peak of 12.9 inches which normally occurs April 1.