Rains, reservoirs, drought

It rained 12” here the past 3 weeks. That’s more in 3 weeks than we had each year since this drought’s onset in 2011, and 2/3 of historical annual averages!

Even after all that rain and upstream reservoirs spilling, Lake Cachuma (our primary water source) is only 13% full, the lowest of all state reservoirs. Today’s Los Angeles Times How a ‘rain shadow’ left this reservoir parched even after all those storms” explains geographic and weather interrelationships that cause that ominous shortfall. We’re in for continued challenges.

The good news is the U.S. Drought Monitor‘s year-over-year improvement shown below. Color intensity reflects degree of dryness, and 38% of the state is no longer dry, the best reading since December 2011. Our region was a holdout at purple ‘exceptional drought’ until that 12″ of rain moved us to red ‘severe drought’. While El Niño (2016’s predicted drought-buster) wound up a no-show in the south and mediocre centrally, the combination of its effects last year in the north and January 2017’s statewide storms matters.


Yet, the National Weather Service cautions “This improvement accounts for some short-term drought improvement, but the longer-term drought impacts still remain.” Santa Clara Valley Water District Director Richard Santos warned KTLA yesterday “Water conservation is a way of life. It’s not going to change. We’re an arid region for the rest of our lives. History will repeat itself.”

This past month was the very first since 2011 that we used no irrigation. It felt good. And it feels even better knowing that we’re set for the long haul with waterwise practices in our dry climate. It matters.