Snow water equivalent is the depth of water that would cover the ground if the snow cover was in a liquid state. Our river forecasting models use this value , along with temperature and sunshine information, to estimate the amount of snow melt entering the river channels. The actual number is very rarely field checked, but rather estimated from the total snow depth, observed liquid equivalent precipitation, i.e. how much precipitation fell if it was entirely in the form of rain, and the amount of snow melt
Snow depth is not always a true indicator of the average snow depth over an entire area, but the values are used qualitatively to see if the estimated water equivalents are in need of review or revision.