A ground-based system that provides quasi real-time measurement and collection of snow-water equivalent (SWE) data in remote settings is provided. The disclosed invention is significantly less expensive and easier to deploy than current methods and less susceptible to terrain and snow bridging effects. Embodiments of the invention include remote data recovery solutions. Compared to current infrastructure using existing SWE technology, the disclosed invention allows more SWE sites to be installed for similar cost and effort, in a greater variety of terrain; thus, enabling data collection at improved spatial resolutions. The invention integrates a novel computational architecture with new sensor technologies. The invention's computational architecture is based on wireless sensor networks, comprised of programmable, low-cost, low-powered nodes capable of sophisticated sensor control and remote data communication. The invention also includes measuring attenuation of electromagnetic radiation, an approach that is immune to snow bridging and significantly reduces sensor footprints.