California, is our drought over?
California has had a tumultuous time with water supplies for many years.
Records show significant dry periods going back more than 1,000 years.
Some of the reasons for these conditions are due to lack of rainfall, higher than average temperatures, dry air masses, as well as increases in the population and higher water demands.
In the 1920s and 30s, California experienced on-and-off dry conditions causing severe drought conditions.
1977 was the driest year in this state's history.
1988 saw the worst drought in 50 years that affected at least 35 states.
California was in severe drought conditions from 1987 - 1992
2007 - 2009 a statewide proclamation of drought emergency was issued.
2012 - 2016 was the hottest drought.
In the summer of 2022, there were more household wells that literally ran out of water than in any other quarter.
More frequent and severe droughts along with rising temperatures are producing much larger wildfires.
California's average temperature has warmed by 3 degrees since 1970!
What is a drought?
A drought is a period of unusually persistent dry weather that lasts long enough to cause serious problems such as crop damage and/or water supply shortages.
Variables used to describe drought conditions can be precipitation, temperature, streamflow, groundwater and reservoir levels, soil moisture, and snowpack.
There are five different ways that drought is defined and categorized
Meteorological is a lack of rainfall from normal healthy measures.
Agricultural is when the amount of moisture in the soil no longer meets the needs of a particular crop.
Hydrological means that rivers, streams, and groundwater are lower than normal.
Socioeconomic is when physical water shortages begin to affect people, causing the lack of ability to use water normally and restricting usage.
Ecological is a periodic lack of water availability that attacks ecosystem services, and triggers feedback in natural and/or human systems.
Where are we now?
All of those factors go into something called the U.S. Drought Monitor. It's a map that comes out every week on Thursdays.
As of March 2, 2023
83.3% of California is considered abnormally dry. Marin is in this category.
49.1% is still in moderate drought
25% is in Severe drought.
The most important snowpack measurement happens in April, at the end of the snow season, because snow can start to melt early during a warm winter. Water managers want it to pile up and stay frozen, so it can melt in the summer, and run off into creeks and streams that feed the state's water system.
Snow Pack is good now, but we still have low groundwater levels. The underground bodies of water can take a lot longer to fill back up.
So California, we are not in the clear yet.
Droughts are stubborn and can take much more than the rains we are receiving to get us out of the status.
Continue to conserve and be thrifty with your water use. It is not just for us here, but for the planet.