Snowpack provides the majority of predictive information for water supply forecasts (WSFs) in snow-dominated basins across the western United States. Drought conditions typically accompany decreased snowpack and lowered runoff efficiency, negatively impacting WSFs. Here, we investigate the relationship between snow water equivalent (SWE) and April–July streamflow volume (AMJJ-V) during drought in small headwater catchments, using observations from 31 USGS streamflow gauges and 54 SNOTEL stations. A linear regression approach is used to evaluate forecast skill under different historical climatologies used for model fitting, as well as with different forecast dates. Experiments are constructed in which extreme hydrological drought years are withheld from model training, that is, years with AMJJ-V below the 15th percentile. Subsets of the remaining years are used for model fitting to understand how the climatology of different training subsets impacts forecasts of extreme drought years. We generally report overprediction in drought years. However, training the forecast model on drier years, that is, below-median years (
Seasonal water supply forecasts based on the relationship between peak snowpack and water supply exhibit unique errors in drought years due to low snow and streamflow variability, presenting a major challenge for water supply prediction. Here, we assess the reliability of snow-based streamflow predictability in drought years using a fixed forecast date or fixed model training period. We critically evaluate different training protocols that evaluate predictive performance and identify sources of error during historical drought years. We also propose and test an “adaptive sampling” application that dynamically selects training years based on antecedent SWE conditions providing to overcome persistent errors and provide new insights and strategies for snow-guided forecasts.