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Spokane River

From mountains to dams - where our water comes from   

Tags: Avista Utilities, Weather, Video, Spokane River, Hydro power, Clark Fork

An inside look at how Avista gathers information about snowpack

Post by Brandi Smith

Snow covered trees near Roland Summit in the Lolo National Forest
Avista owns and operates eight hydroelectric
dams on the Clark Fork and Spokane rivers.
These facilities, together with long term hydro
contracts, make up about half of the total
electric resources available to serve our
Skiers may prefer light and fluffy snow, but heavy and wet snow contributes more to our water supply in the Northwest. Avista counts on water to generate hydropower for our customers.  Every year, Avista evaluates snowpack information in the mountains to get an idea of what spring runoff may be like at our dams on the Spokane and Clark Fork rivers. Only a select few get to see this evaluation process up close, so we took a video camera up the mountain to get you a special look at snowpack measurement.

Avista rents snowmobiles so employees can get as close to the snowpack measurement site as possible. Snow depth is measured by pushing an aluminum tube down through the snowpack and all the way down to ground surface. Both the depth and weight of the snow is recorded. An average of all samples taken is calculated and used to represent the snowpack measurement site. 

Avista measures 10 sites at Roland Summit in the Lolo National Forest, which is located near the Hiawatha Trail. Once the data is collected, the Hydro Engineering team submits the data to the National Resources Conservation Service who is largely responsible for providing Avista and many other interested parties with reliable water supply forecasts.

The more gradual the snowmelt, the more Avista can maximize that water running through its dams.  However, you never know what Mother-Nature is going to do. Regardless, our customers can count on Avista to make the most out of this precious resource in an efficient, reliable and environmentally-responsible way.

If you have questions about lake and river levels, please visit our website.
Posted by  System Account  on  3/27/2012
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