Between a Rock and a Dry Place: Effects of Drought on Stream Drying Patterns in California’s Intermittent Streams

You may have heard the saying from the Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “No man steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” If you walk along a coastal stream in California at the end of the summer, you will understand the dynamic nature of these systems. In a wet year, such as 2017, you might find a stream that is fully connected with flowing water. But in a dry year, like 2021, you might walk miles of dry stream channel before discovering an isolated pool. Many of California’s streams naturally become intermittent at some point in the dry season. However, when and where stream channels go dry is highly variable year-to-year and difficult to predict (van Meerveld et al., 2020).