ECHO SUMMIT — A snowy December that kept Sierra ski resorts busy also had California's water managers hopeful Wednesday at the start of a monthly snow-measuring ritual that determines everything from types of crops planted to municipal water allocations.
Officials with the Department of Water Resources measured more than 4 feet of accumulation near Echo Summit in El Dorado County on Wednesday, which is about normal for this time of year, said Frank Gehrke, head of California's cooperative snow survey program.
On this date last year there was only 0.14 inches of snow.
"You can see it's a big, big difference. It's a good start to the year," Gehrke said. "We're keeping our fingers crossed that we keep getting storm activity into April."
California's Sierra Nevada snowpack provides about one-third of the water used in the state as it melts to fill reservoirs and rivers and replenish aquifers. The current depth is about half of what normally falls during the season, which ends April 1.