El Niño bringing relief, but not enough
In December of 2015, the Californian Department of Water Resources predicted many of the state’s water agencies will only receive 10 percent of expected supplies in 2016, half what they received in 2015. The department also cautioned this prediction could change if el Niño brings heavy rain and snowfall to the state in January and February.
So far, El Niño’s been cooperating, bringing record-breaking snow and rainfall to parts of California. The Sierra Nevada snowpack currently contains twice the average water content for this time of year. Does this mean the Department of Water Resources was wrong? Is the drought over?
Sadly, probably not. Reservoirs and groundwater levels are so low a single wet winter will prove insufficient to refill them even precipitation continues into March. The wet weather is certainly for the better, and brings some relief, but to be free of drought conditions the state needs several consecutive wet winters. El Niño is also typically followed by its counterpart, el Niña, which brings drier weather to the southwest United States.
The rain and snowfall is having a psychological effect on parched Californians, however, and not always for the best. The wet weather has put smiles on many residents of the Sunshine State, but it also encourages lapses in water conservation. Wetter months, unfortunately, often result in people taking water restrictions less seriously. It may be wet now, but the rain isn’t going to last.
This means it’s just as important to practice water conservation techniques now as it was last summer. Whether you’re replacing your lawn with drought resistant plants, replacing old shower heads with low-flow shower filters, or fixing a leaky toilet, every drop of water you save now will be available for later in the year, when we’ll need it.
In the meantime, let’s keep hoping for more snowfall up in the mountains!