Placer County snow

Winter pushes snowpack and Middle Fork operations to new heights

AUBURN, Calif.- Marking the mid-point of the 2019 water year, the Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) Board of Directors received an update on local hydrological conditions at its meeting on April 18. As of early April, cumulative precipitation at Lake Spaulding Reservoir, which supplies 90 percent of PCWA water demand, was at 119 percent of average. More impressive was the region’s snowpack which has reached depths of over 115 inches. The 52.1 inches of snow-water equivalence is 199 percent of average.

The atmospheric pattern behind this year’s historic snowpack included an unusually persistent merging of cold Artic air from the north and warmer, moisture-laden air from the Pacific Ocean. The combination of these factors brought most of the moisture into the region in the form of snow.

“To accommodate the volume of runoff that is expected this spring and summer, PCWA has been operating the reservoirs of its Middle Fork American River Project (MFP) at a lower level continuously since the beginning of the year,” said PCWA Energy Marketing Manager, Darin Reintjes. “While storage in our two main reservoirs currently sits at just over 143,000 acre-feet, when combined with snowpack that number jumps to over 480,000 acre-feet. High levels of hydroelectric generation are anticipated to continue throughout the summer.”

Coinciding with above average hydroelectric generation are strong energy prices. Increased demand, due to cold weather and infrastructure constraints, has driven Pacific Gas & Electric natural gas inventories to an all-time low heading into the summer. The upward pressure on energy prices means MFP hydroelectric revenues should rise as well. Early projections show revenues could double estimates from earlier this year.

The next regular meeting of the PCWA Board of Directors will be held on Thursday, May 2, 2:00 PM, at the PCWA Business Center, 144 Ferguson Road, in Auburn. PCWA board meetings are open to the public.

For information on PCWA board meetings, please contact the Clerk to the Board at (530) 823-4850 or (800) 464-0030.