Published: May 3, 2019

    For the First Time in 7 Years California is Not in a Drought

    If you read the Pelican Water blog on a semi-regular basis you are keenly aware of the many threats to the world’s most precious resource, whether it be saltwater intrusion in Florida, lead contamination in Michigan, or plastic waste in our oceans. However, today we actually have some great news: for the first time in seven years California is free of drought (for the time being).

    According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, California was in moderate or severe drought for 376 consecutive weeks. This is the first time California has not been in some level of drought since December 20, 2011. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted that increased precipitation in 2017 still left huge swaths of California in moderate drought, even as reservoirs were slowly refilling.

    A Wet Winter Replenishes Water Supplies, Causes Damage

    As of January 1, 75% of California was still in some stage of drought. However, this winter marked the wettest winter in the United States since meteorological records were first collected. The massive amount of rainstorms helped replenish dwindling water supplies across the state.

    The increased rain in February and March has led to higher-than-average rainfall and brought greenery to oft-dry areas of the state. For example, the National Weather Service in Sacramento noted that the northern Sierras have received 136 percent of standard rainfall, Sacramento received 126 percent of standard rainfall, and Redding received 120 percent of standard rainfall.

    The cool weather and moisture has brought about stunning displays of plant life around the state. A “super bloom” of poppies is occurring around Lake Elsinore southeast of Los Angeles, and wildflowers are in bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park northeast of San Diego.

    However, the huge uptick in rain caused massive amounts of flooding and subsequent damage in many regions of California, including Sonoma County and in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles. Millions of dollars of damage closed bridges and roadways in the San Jacinto area, and state transportation officials expect the routes to be closed for months.

    Conservation Must Continue

    Though the state is temporarily free from drought, any stretch of dry weather can put California back in the red. When former Governor Jerry Brown lifted the drought emergency in 2017, he warned, “The next drought could be just around the corner.” He continued, “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

    In 2015 Gov. Brown ordered urban areas to reduce water use by 25% in an attempt to reduce water shortages. Homeowners were urged to switch to drought-resistant landscaping and drivers were told to “go dirty for the drought” and wash their cars as little as possible.

    Some areas of the state remain “abnormally dry” due to the long recovery needed after prolonged drought. The reservoirs in San Diego County are still only at 65 percent capacity. Conditions in California can change quickly, and it’s always better to be prepared.

    Any level of drought can affect your water quality, so take the steps you can to begin reducing the water use in your home. Read our blog to learn some simple ways to conserve water, and take our water footprint calculator to pinpoint exactly where you use the most water.