NOAA Spring Outlook-drought-snowpack-flooding

NOAA Spring Outlook: California Drought Cut by Half with More Relief to Come

NOAA’s U.S. Spring Outlook indicates the abnormally wet winter will further improve drought across much of the western U.S. as the snowpack melts in the coming months. Winter precipitation, combined with recent storms, wiped out exceptional and extreme drought in California for the first time since 2020, and is expected to further improve drought conditions this spring.

Significant flooding in the western U.S., especially in California, followed another series of strong Pacific storms that battered the region in March, and piled on to an already historic snowpack.

NOAA’s U.S. Spring Outlook highlights temperature, precipitation, drought and flood predictions for April through June to help the nation prepare for potential weather and climate threats to lives and livelihoods.

Climate change – wet and dry extremes

​“Climate change is driving both wet and dry extremes, as illustrated by NOAA’s observations and data that inform this seasonal outlook,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D.​​ “​Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law​ and Inflation Reduction Act, and in support of the Biden Administration’s priority to tackle the climate crisis​, NOAA ​will invest significant resources ​to build a Climate-Ready Nation that gives communities tailored information about changing conditions so that residents and economies are protected.”

Spring Outlook for drought, temperature and precipitation

On March 9, NOAA forecasters declared La Niña over. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a climate pattern, based on changes in rainfall and sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, that influences temperature and precipitation around the world. La Niña occurs when ocean temperatures are cooler than normal and rainfall is reduced in the eastern to central Pacific Ocean.

El Niño and La Niña

“La Niña has finally ended after being in place nearly continuously for more than two years,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief of the operational prediction branch at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. “ENSO-neutral —  the transition period between El Niño and La Niña — is likely to continue into the early summer with elevated chances of El Niño developing thereafter. ENSO-neutral is factored into NOAA’s Spring Outlook.”

Moderate to exceptional drought coverage across the U.S. is at its lowest since August 2020 and is likely to continue improving, or end entirely, across much of California and the Great Basin. The spring wet season is expected to improve drought conditions across parts of the northern and central Plains. Current drought conditions in Florida are expected to improve or go away during the next three months.

Areas of extreme to exceptional drought across parts of the southern High Plains are likely to persist through the spring season, with drought also expected to develop into parts of New Mexico. Across parts of the Northwest U.S. and northern Rockies, drought conditions are also expected to continue. Drought may develop into parts of Washington state.

Above-average temperatures are favored for much of the southern and eastern half of the U.S. For April through June, the greatest chance for above-average temperatures exists from the southern High Plains eastward to Florida, and northward along the East Coast. Above-average temperatures are also likely for Hawaii and northern parts of Alaska. Below-average temperatures are predicted for the central Great Basin and the northern Plains.

California endures flooding, landslides, and evacuations

Parts of central and southern California that were still reeling from heavy snowfall earlier this month received yet another powerful atmospheric river which exited the region on March 15. Flooding, landslides, power outages, and evacuations are among the many impacts residents faced from the recent storm. The above graphic depicts most of the state receiving between 300-600% of normal precipitation over the last seven days. — USDA Water and Climate Update

Below-average precipitation like for the Southwest

NOAA forecasters predict above-average precipitation this spring across the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, and into parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Below-average precipitation is most likely for the Southwest and parts of the Pacific Northwest.

How Rising Temperatures Are Intensifying California’s Atmospheric Rivers

California is no stranger to big swings between wet and dry weather. The “atmospheric river” storms that have battered the state this winter are part of a system that has long interrupted periods of drought with huge bursts of rain — indeed, they provide somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of all precipitation on the West Coast.

The parade of storms that has struck California in recent months has dropped more than 30 trillion gallons of water on the state, refilling reservoirs that had sat empty for years and burying mountain towns in snow.

Opinion: Why Rain-On-Snow Floods From Atmospheric Rivers Could Get Much Worse

California’s latest atmospheric rivers are sending rainfall higher into the mountains and onto the state’s crucial snowpack. The rain alone is a problem for low-lying areas already dealing with destructive flooding, but the prospect of rain on the deep mountain snow has triggered widespread flood warnings.

When rain falls on snow, it creates complex flood risks that are hard to forecast. Those risks are also rising with climate change.

Scientists Confirm Global Floods and Droughts Worsened by Climate Change

The intensity of extreme drought and rainfall has “sharply” increased over the past 20 years, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Water. These aren’t merely tough weather events, they are leading to extremes such as crop failure, infrastructure damage and even humanitarian crises.

The big picture on water comes from data from a pair of satellites known as GRACE, or Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, that were used to measure changes in Earth’s water storage — the sum of all the water on and in the land, including groundwater, surface water, ice, and snow.

Colorado River Board of California-River Board-Tour

San Diego County Water Authority Hosts Colorado River Board of California

The San Diego County Water Authority will host water leaders from throughout Southern California March 15 for the monthly meeting of the Colorado River Board of California. On March 14, before the formal meeting, CRB board members will tour projects in the region that promote water resiliency.

The CRB will consider the complex water supply issues facing the Southwest U.S. during its meeting. San Diego Congressman Scott Peters is also scheduled to address the CRB.

Colorado River Board of California

The tour is part of a new program implemented by CRB, under the leadership of Chair JB Hamby, Imperial Irrigation District’s representative, and Vice Chair Jim Madaffer, the Water Authority’s representative and Water Authority board member, to build greater awareness of each CRB member agency’s efforts to serve their region and manage their river supplies.

“The Colorado River Board is so important to ensuring California’s voice is heard on the river, especially during these difficult times as we work to find collaborative solutions to the river’s challenges now and into the future,” Madaffer said. “We look forward to showcasing the local supply projects, online now and planned, that create water resiliency locally, but that also reduce the demand on the river.”

Established in 1937, the CRB is a state agency tasked with protecting the interests and rights of the state and its agencies in water and power resources from the Colorado River.

The Water Authority is a member of the CRB along with IID, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Coachella Valley Water District, the Palo Verde Irrigation District, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the California Department of Water Resources, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. CRB representatives, including two additional members from the public, are appointed by the Governor.

Colorado River Board-river board-Jim Madaffer

The facility tour and meeting is a new CRB program under the leadership of Chair JB Hamby, Imperial Irrigation District’s representative, and Vice Chair Jim Madaffer (L), the Water Authority’s representative and Water Authority board member. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Management of the river

The CRB represents California in discussions and negotiations with the Basin states, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, governmental agencies at all levels, tribes, and Mexico regarding the management of the river.

CRB members on the tour will see two local water supply projects generating water now – the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant – and planned – the East County Advanced Water Purification Plant.

Seawater desalination

The seawater desalination plant, the largest in the nation, came online in 2015 and recently passed the milestone of producing more than one-billion gallons of water for the San Diego region.

Colorado River Board-CRB-desalination-water supply

The San Diego County Water Authority added desalinated seawater to its supply portfolio in 2015 with the start of commercial operations at the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

“The desalination plant is not only important to our region, but the Water Authority believes the plant could be part of an overall long-term solution to support Lake Mead, California’s critical river reservoir, under a proposal we are considering to expand the plant,” said Madaffer.

Water purification

Now under construction, the East County Advanced Water Purification facility, or East County AWP, is a collaborative partnership between two Water Authority member agencies, the Padre Dam Municipal Water District and the Helix Water District, and the County of San Diego and City of El Cajon.

The plant is projected to generate a local, reliable and drought-proof drinking water supply utilizing state-of-the-art technology to recycle and reuse the region’s wastewater. The East County AWP is expected to produce 30% of East San Diego County’s water supply by early 2026, and is one of the innovative water purification facilities in the county either in operation or in development.

East County AWP-groundbreaking-June 2022-CRB-Colorado River Board

Scheduled to be operating in 2026, the East County AWP is projected to generate up to 11.5 million gallons per day of purified water— meeting approximately 30% of current drinking water demands for East San Diego County residents and businesses. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Following the facility tours on March 14, the CRB will hold its monthly meeting March 15 at the Water Authority’s Kearny Mesa headquarters in San Diego. The meeting is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. and is open to the public.

(Editor’s note: The Helix Water District and Padre Dam Municipal Water District, are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the San Diego County region.) 

Save Water and Money with Free Water Efficiency Survey

Forecasts of a hotter, drier climate for the Southwest U.S. make every effort to save water critical. A new program now available intends to do just that for residents in parts of Southern California. The San Diego County Water Authority, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, are offering free indoor and outdoor residential water efficiency use surveys.

Water Use Surveys-Audit-Save Money-Save Water

Save Water and Money with Free Water Efficiency Survey

Forecasts of a hotter, drier climate for the Southwest U.S. make every effort to save water critical. A new program now available intends to do just that for residents in parts of Southern California. The San Diego County Water Authority, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, are offering free indoor and outdoor residential water efficiency use surveys.

The surveys, in-person and virtual, are available within MWD’s service area, including San Diego County.

“The survey is a free, easy, tool that can show you what small changes can be made which will lead to long-term savings,” said Joni German, a water resource specialist at the Water Authority.

She said the surveys are scheduled on a first-come, first-serve basis. After filling out an online application the next step is scheduling a visit from a certified landscape auditor.

Save water, save money

Not only do residents save our most precious resource, they also save money.

Vallecitos Water District customer Michael Berry took advantage of the program because he wanted to do more to save water. Even though Berry had previously replaced his grass with artificial turf, he said he learned how to save even more water after the survey.

“What I learned primarily is how to improve my irrigation system from spray-based systems to a drip based system,” said Berry. “That’s the primary thing I’ll fix going forward.”

Outdoor survey

An outdoor survey includes an evaluation of the water meter to check for leaks along with zone information on the homeowner’s plants. During this process the homeowner will take the surveyor around areas with irrigation, divided into sections or “zones.”

Inspections will be done on each zone to determine whether the current irrigation system in place is operating at peak efficiency. The water meter can be utilized in seeing any unusual increase of water usage without the homeowner’s knowledge which would indicate a leak in the irrigation system.

Saving water with irrigation efficiency

In Berry’s case, the surveyor performed a check up on potential irrigation problems such as valve malfunctions, pressure, sprinkler alignment, drainage leaks and anything else that might reduce efficiency or indicate overwatering. The presence of leaks or blocks in the valves and using spray water instead of drip irrigation are just a few elements the surveyor warned Barry could negatively impact his water savings.

“One of the specific things that the surveyor helped me with was the valve maintenance, making sure that every 6-12 months you have to clean the valves out to make sure they’re not getting impeded,” Berry said.

Once the survey is completed, participants receive a written report along with irrigation efficiency recommendations, and information on financial incentives to offset the cost of recommended improvements.

“It’s a good way to get a new perspective for anyone who does their own landscaping work and is curious about their water usage,” Berry said. In his case, Berry was able to make a plan to improve the water saving practices he already has in place.

“Spray system is where most of the problem I need to solve exists,” he said. “The spray system I have was spraying a lot of dirt areas which aren’t really helping the plants and tree. The second problem is the system is hard to control in terms of the amount of water that I want to put on over a period of time.”

Water efficiency inspections can also be performed on larger commercial landscapes. Schedule your free survey here:

(Editors Note: The Vallecitos Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the San Diego County region).

Opinion: Rains and Flooding Are Not Enough to Solve California’s Persistent Drought Problems

California’s reservoirs may be as full as they’ve been in years thanks to recent rainfall, but it’s still not enough water to meet the state’s demands — and it will never be if the state doesn’t invest in new ways to capture all that precious water.

Not enough of the state’s heavy rainfall is draining into California’s underground reservoirs to keep us sated, even through the next summer.

Policy Group Warns of Steep Ag Losses Without Coordinated Action on Water

Agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley may be able to blunt a sharp decline in the years ahead if policymakers and the industry can come together on a series of strategies for reducing demand for irrigation while also increasing water supply, according to a new assessment from a prominent policy organization.

The report this month from the Public Policy Institute of California examined the biggest challenge confronting the state’s ag industry then recommended softening the impact by loosening water-trading rules, incentivizing farmland reuse and investing in storage, including groundwater recharge.

Deadline for Colorado River Water Cuts Passes With No Agreement

The decades-old agreements that outline water rights to the Colorado River Basin are leading to an impasse on an issue affecting millions of people in the American Southwest.

On Jan. 31, the seven states that draw water from the basin had to come up with a plan to voluntarily cut back on using water from the basin. Six states — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — agreed on one proposal. But California, which is the state the uses the most water, rejected that plan and submitted its own.