Bill Text

PDF |Add To My Favorites | print page

SB-487 Department of Water Resources: aerial snow survey.(2019-2020)

SHARE THIS:share this bill in Facebookshare this bill in Twitter
Date Published: 09/11/2019 09:00 PM

Enrolled  September 11, 2019
Passed  IN  Senate  September 06, 2019
Passed  IN  Assembly  September 05, 2019
Amended  IN  Assembly  June 11, 2019
Amended  IN  Senate  May 17, 2019


Senate Bill
No. 487

Introduced by Senator Caballero

February 21, 2019

An act to add and repeal Section 228.5 of the Water Code, relating to water resources.


SB 487, Caballero. Department of Water Resources: aerial snow survey.
Existing law requires the Department of Water Resources to gather and correlate information and data pertinent to an annual forecast of seasonal water crop, including the making of snow surveys, either independently or in cooperation with any person or any county, state, federal, or other agency. Existing law also requires the Department of Water Resources to update every 5 years the plan for the orderly and coordinated control, protection, conservation, development, and use of the water resources of the state, which is known as The California Water Plan.
This bill would require, to the extent an appropriation is made for these purposes, the department’s California snow survey program to conduct aerial surveys of the snowpack and conduct supporting forecasts of runoff volume and timing for the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range and the Klamath-Trinity Mountains, including areas that drain or supply water to major reservoirs and lakes. The bill would require the department to conduct the surveys and forecasts up to 10 times per year and to analyze and make publicly available any summaries and underlying data, as specified.
This bill would make these provisions inoperative on July 1, 2029, and would repeal them as of January 1, 2030.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


 The Legislature finds and declares the following:
(a) The State of California has been a global leader in snowpack measurement and monitoring and runoff forecasting since it launched the snow survey program in 1929, providing water managers critical information needed to make daily decisions about how to operate our water infrastructure to serve water supply and public safety needs.
(b) During the past century, demands on California’s water system and water supply have increased due to factors such as the growth of population centers and industries, changing societal values and priorities for protecting fish and wildlife, and greater variability in the climate.
(c) Conventional snow surveys provide useful data to natural resource managers but have limitations, such as inaccessibility of wilderness areas, and result in estimates of snowpack with a margin of error of up to 60 percent.
(d) Greater accuracy is needed in order to maximize the efficient operation of reservoirs to meet competing demands for water in a changing climate, as more accurate runoff predictions would, among many other benefits, prevent unnecessary releases of water to create flood space, effectively creating new storage in upstream reservoirs and providing for optimal environmental flow releases.
(e) Better information about tree health and other conditions of California’s forests and watersheds will be critical for targeting key areas where additional forest management and fuel reduction activities can help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, especially under future climate change.
(f) Since 2013, local and regional agencies relying on the Sierra Nevada watershed have collaborated to fund operations of the Airborne Snow Observatory, a snow survey and forecasting technology developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.
(g) The Airborne Snow Observatory is capable of measuring snow depths at several points in every square meter of a watershed, as opposed to conventional surveys that rely on a few hundred monitoring locations to cover more than 40,000 square miles.
(h) When combined with conventional measurements from California’s snow survey program, data generated though the Airborne Snow Observatory has resulted in runoff forecasts that are 96 percent to 98 percent accurate, and this data is already in use by the Department of Water Resources’ flood control forecasters and by federal, state, and local agencies for water supply and environmental flow restoration programs.
(i) Data gathered through the Airborne Snow Observatory surveys has broad application and use beyond the management of water supply, environmental flows, floods, and forests, including, but not limited to, for assessing seismic risk, fire management, transportation planning, and recreation.
(j) For fiscal year 2019, operations of the Airborne Snow Observatory program have been funded by local water users and the Department of Water Resources through a Proposition 1 flood grant.

SEC. 2.

 Section 228.5 is added to the Water Code, to read:

 (a) The department’s California snow survey program shall conduct aerial surveys of the snowpack and conduct supporting forecasts of runoff volume and timing for the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range and the Klamath-Trinity Mountains, including areas that drain or supply water to California’s major reservoirs and lakes.
(b) The department shall conduct the aerial surveys and forecasts described in subdivision (a) up to 10 times per year, depending on the extent of the snow cover, with the objective of informing Bulletin 120 runoff forecasts and other runoff forecasts for watersheds in the State of California and providing data for other public benefits and uses.
(c) The department may contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or a private entity, if necessary, to complete the surveys of the snowpack pursuant to this section. The department may also partner with other state agencies, federal agencies, or nonprofit entities to plan and operate surveys and develop runoff forecasts.
(d) The department shall analyze the data obtained through the snow surveys conducted and runoff forecasts produced pursuant to this section and make any summaries and underlying data publicly available on the department’s internet website or in another manner, consistent with the protocols developed pursuant to the Open and Transparent Water Data Act (Part 4.9 (commencing with Section 12400) of Division 6). The department shall make the data and summaries publicly available in a timely manner for use by public agencies and any other interested parties to assist in the optimal management of the runoff for beneficial uses, including water supply, flood control, and environmental flow releases. The department, in a manner determined by the department, shall make publicly available any digital products, such as computer models, used to produce runoff forecasts.
(e) This section shall be implemented only to the extent an appropriation in the annual Budget Act or another statute is made for these purposes.
(f) This section shall become inoperative on July 1, 2029, and, as of January 1, 2030, is repealed.