United States Department of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service
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National Water and Climate Center


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National Snow Data Management System Initiative

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) proposes to coordinate and provide technical leadership to integrate snow survey information systems, automated data collection technology, data analysis and dissemination of snow data information over a greater area of the U.S. This will include the Northern Plains, Northeast, Rocky Mountains and California. NSDMS will enhance ongoing NRCS Water and Climate program activities in the Western and Northwestern regions with additional focus on improving snow / water resource information and accessibility in other United States snowfall areas. NRCS (formerly called SCS), has operated a successful Cooperative Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program since 1938. This Program is recognized as a very efficient and cost effective system that provides critical climate and water supply information to a wide variety of users.

Expanding population, increased use of fertilizers to meet food and fiber needs, the resulting uncertainties of water quality, and quantity in some parts of the country and recent climate extremes have converged to ignite interest in improved and more timely monitoring of climate and seasonally variable water resources. These pressures are felt throughout the Northern Plains, Northeast, Rocky Mountains and California. NRCS's ability to provide sound and scientifically based assessments and decision support for water resource and watershed based conservation will be greatly enhanced as high quality, historic and integrated snow information on local to national scales will be readily available.

US Map Depicting Mean Annual Snowfall

The demands for improved snow information coverage and coordinated data collection have become more critical recently. Recent extreme snowfalls in the Northeast, Northern Plains, Rocky Mountains and California have resulted in "snow-melt enhanced" record flooding and associated multi-million dollar structural damage to roofs, river channels, riparian areas, dikes, and reservoir spillways. Disruption to agriculture has also resulted as operators have been forced to make unexpected agricultural decisions with incomplete data records. The requests continue to increase for more comprehensive coverage and precise analysis of potential water supply or runoff characteristics. These events have prompted federal, state, and private entities to recognize the need for better coordination among the various entities that collect and manage the snow data. The demand for this information is only expected to increase with advancing urbanization and new development in traditionally rural and water short areas.