Sierra Nevada Snowpack, A Crucial Water Resource, Could Disappear In 25 Years

Sierra Nevada Snowpack, A Crucial Water Resource, Could Disappear In 25 Years

A recent study found that California's Sierra Nevada snowpack, a critical water resource, could disappear within 25 years if global warming continues. This comes as snowfall throughout the drought-stricken Western United States drops to record lows. In Denver, it has been 224 consecutive days since it snowed a measurable amount. This is a first for the Mile High City, which has never gone a December without snow since records began in 1882.

Why This Matters

The West is already in the midst of a megadrought, and snow is an essential source of water for the region. The Sierra Nevada snowpack typically accounts for around 30% of California's fresh water supply, and the region as a whole counts on snow for 75% of its fresh water supply.

In Colorado, the situation is just as dire. Over two-thirds of the state's water supply comes from snowpack, according to the Environmental Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, and the Colorado River Basin supplies more than 40 million Americans with their drinking water.

"A low-to-no-snow future has massive implications for where and when water is stored in the western US," Erica Siirila-Woodburn, one of the lead authors of the Sierra Nevada study, said in a statement.

The Megadrought Continues

This study indicates the megadrought shows no signs of slowing. Over Thanksgiving, 88% of Colorado was under moderate drought, and last week, the drought has affected 95% of the state. This comes after a brutally dry summer for the West, that saw Lake Mead, once the nation's largest reservoir, hit its lowest water levels in history.

In California, this may mean more mandatory water restrictions, and that some regions could receive no allocations, except for emergencies, from the State Water Project (which supplies water to around 25 million people).

"The conditions on the State Water Project are unlike anything we've ever seen before," Adel Hagekhalil, the agency's general manager, said in a statement. "While we certainly hope they improve, we must be prepared for the reality that the state project may not have any water to allocate in 2022."

WW0: Newsmaker of the Week - Jacob Morrison, director of River's End, October 28, 2021.

River's End: California's Latest Water War - Official Trailer, April 21, 2021.