After months of pounding rains and a cooler than usual June, California reservoirs are bursting with water leaving only 6% of the state currently in drought. A year ago, more than 99% of California was in drought, according to the U.S. drought monitor. Torrential rains transformed an arid landscape into a water rich environment with rushing waterways, brimming lakes and swollen underground basins.
After a winter of historic rains, California’s reservoirs are filled to the brim. Rivers are supercharged—and have flooded much of the Central Valley. With the water came a deluge of news voicing worries that California is letting all that water wash into the sea after years of drought—and heralding the idea of capturing it to recharge our long-parched groundwater aquifers. The political will is strong: Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued three separate executive orders aimed at amping up recharge efforts.
After a series of winter storms boosted California’s reservoirs and snowpack, state and federal officials are pledging full water deliveries, increasing 2023 allocations for farmers and water districts to 100% of requested supplies for the year.
With snowmelt occurring, the California Department of Water Resources said last week it expects to deliver 100% of requested water supplies from the State Water Project. That is up from a 75% allocation announced in March.
Nearly every square mile of California was in a severe drought four months ago. The first six months of 2022 were the driest on record and, in many corners of the state, the rest of the year wasn’t much better.
Now we’re worrying about whether we have too much water in some places.
California is going into spring with a minuscule amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada, leaving the state in a third year of extreme drought and with depleted reservoirs to draw on during what’s likely to be another hot, parched summer.
The mountain snowpack, as measured by snow sensors across the Sierras, now stands at just 38% of the long-term average.
Dire warnings about communities and farms running dry next year. Headlines proclaiming a potentially dry La Niña winter. Reservoirs already so low they look like sets for post-apocalyptic movies. California seems poised for a continuation of its crippling drought next summer.