PHILLIPS STATION (AP/CBS13) — The amount of water in California’s mountain snowpack is only about half of average for early winter, a state Department of Water Resources official said Wednesday, urging conservation but noting that a dry start doesn’t always predict the season’s outcome.

An automated sensor network on 260 snow courses statewide found the snow-water content to be 52% of average to date, said Sean de Guzman, chief of the department’s snow surveys.

De Guzman found a bit of better news after snowshoeing out into a clearing at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada, where manual measurements date to 1941.

The measurement there found 30.5 inches (77.4 centimeters) of snow with a water content of 10.5 inches (26.6 centimeters), which equates to 93% of average to date and 42% of the April 1 average, the key date when the snowpack is typically at its peak.

Fall 2020 has been extremely dry, especially in the Sierra Nevada, and comes on the heels of last year’s below-average snow and precipitation so “it remains critical that all Californians make water conservation a way of life,” de Guzman said.

He said, however, that two-thirds of the wettest months — January and February — are yet to come and a handful of storms can create most of the Sierra snowpack.

Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.