Is The Drought Over?

Most of California has experienced the wettest December in at least 120 years. Does this mean that the drought is over? See today’s Los Angeles Daily News article on this (and today’s photo of the Sylmar cascades of the Los Angeles Aqueduct) at:

http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_16960496

The record rainfall is great news, indeed, for the water supply picture. Record storage and snowfall numbers abound throughout the State. However, this is something like having a big lead in a football game after the first quarter. As climatologist Bill Patzert from Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena points out in the article, “Our three biggest months (for rain) are January, February, and March.” This means that the “game” is not over, and there is still plenty of time for the drought to return.

Patzert is also quoted as saying “One year is not going to be a drought buster… The fact is that, in California, we have never been without a drought.” Very true.

And it’s not as though human water needs are all that must be addressed by our water systems. Bob Muir from Metropolitan Water District also points out in this article that water supply is always “a year-to-year proposition,” largely due to non-human demands on the very same water infrastructure that stores and transports the human water supply. As long as we must share this infrastructure, Muir is correct with his “year-to-year proposition” label.

But let’s be grateful for what we have received, and for the tremendous and obvious help it has been to our water supply picture. As we have pointed out in prior blogs, the largest and most important component of storage in California’s State Water Project is Lake Oroville. See the Department of Water Resources graph of storage by clicking on the following link, and then clicking on the “Combination Water/Calendar Year” link on that page:

http://www.water.ca.gov/swp/operationscontrol/orovilleops.cfm

It shows an unprecedented (at least in the last five years) increase in storage in the lake for this time of year. That’s terrific news. However, even with this increase, the storage level remains about 700,000 acre-feet below the level for the same date in 2006. That’s more than two full Castaic Lakes behind! But the trend is remarkably encouraging.

So, is the drought over? Is the football game over after the first quarter?

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