California drought continues

Everyone is walking around asking the same question. When is it going to rain? Well, if it continues the way it has, this year may hold the dismal record for worst year ever.

This January was the driest January ever recorded, and January is normally California’s wettest month. San Francisco and Santa Cruz, which normally receive a few inches, recorded no rainfall for the entire month, for the first time in more than 100 years. The news recently reported that nearly 900 wells in Porterville had gone dry.

Still, no rain in sight. In fact, the lack of rain, combined with warmer-than-average temperatures has produced a meager snow pack, according to the second annual snow survey conducted by the Department of Water Resource, and makes it likely that California’s drought is heading into its fourth consecutive year.

DWR has measured the winter snow pack’s water content for decades. In normal years, the snow pack supplies about 30% of California’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer. The greater the snow pack water content, the greater the likelihood California’s reservoirs will receive ample runoff to meet the state’s water demand in the summer and fall.

DWR managers said heavy precipitation and cooler temperatures in the next three months would be required for the snow pack to build, and give Californians hope for beginning to recover from drought this year.

According to Phil Messerschmitt, with the official government weather station at the Bass Lake Ranger Station office in North Fork, the inches-to-date average at this time of year is 17 inches; so far, we’re at 9.25. Records kept since 1903 show a seasonal average of 32+ inches during the year than runs from July 1 - June 30. Last year, during the entire year, we only had 15 inches.

Several state agencies are working together, scrambling to come up with ideas to allow for water to continue to flow, while protecting water quality and the environment. State Climatologist Michael Anderson has said that to have a chance at ending the drought, California would have to record precipitation that is at least 150% of normal by the end of the water year on September 30, or 75 inches as measured by the 8-station index. As of the end of January 2015, only 23.1 inches have been recorded at the stations.

In January of last year, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a drought State of Emergency, directing state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. He also called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20%. Conservation – the wise, sparing usage of water – remains California’s most reliable drought management tool. Each individual act of conservation – such as letting the lawn go brown or replacing a washer in a faucet to stop a leak – can make a difference over time.

Details: or drought.cagov.

Staff report