How much snow is out there?

Snowfall greatly impacts the physical and financial burdens of snow maintenance and removal. The Yarmouth Water District (YWD) is no exception as the tasks of clearing and open access to, headquarters, wells, tanks, and other parts of the system which placed a strain on crews and equipment use.

Snowfall also affects the recharge of the source waters for all public water utilities. A thick snowpack with high water content together with a gradual melting as an ideal condition for substantial ground infiltration and recharge of underground water aquifers and the capture of above ground runoff to surface water reservoirs. A sudden melting under similar conditions can result in minimal ground infiltration and cause floods, landslides and erosion with attendant sedimentation and pollution.

The legislatively established River Flow Advisory Commission (RFAC) in the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is responsible for a Maine Cooperative Snow Survey. This is a collaborative effort involving state and federal agencies, neighboring state and provincial governments and private industries.

In late Winter and early Spring The Maine Cooperative Snow Survey field crews visit specific sites in the field as many as a dozen times to collect, interpret, and distribute information and maps on the depth and water content of Maine’s snowpack. The 1-acre sites have been carefully selected according to their slope, tree cover, and exposure to wind and sun direction so that they are free of local effects such as drifting and excessive melting. Measurements are collected at each site by pushing a calibrated hollow tube down through the snow to the ground. The snow depth can be read on the outside of the tube. The tube, with snow still inside, is pulled up and weighed with an attached instrument resembling a fish scale. Its weight indicates the water content, which is much greater for compact, icy, refrozen than for new, light, fluffy snow. About ten such measurements are taken at each 1-acre site and recorded. Results are compiled at the Maine Geological Survey and analyzed for a GIS computer mapping system. Data and maps are available on the web sites of the Maine Emergency Management Agency and the Maine Geological Survey.

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