The Banality of Floods (and Droughts)

California’s ongoing floods and very wet year overall will continue to grab headlines, provide great pictures, and break some local records, but overall this year is unlikely to be truly extreme from historical or broader water policy and management perspectives. It can still be a very useful wet year, beyond just having lots of water.

State Plans to Order Drought Restrictions, But it Doesn’t Have Good Water Data to Do It

As California descends deeper into drought, state regulators are planning to do something they’ve done few times in modern history: order thousands of people, farms, and even cities and towns that hold historic water rights to stop drawing water from the rivers, lakes and ponds they rely on.  The move is intended to make sure the dwindling flows in California’s waterways are reserved for those with the most senior water rights, as well as for fish and other wildlife.

Many of those with lesser rights would have to turn to storage, groundwater or another source, if they have it.  The problem, besides leaving several in a tough spot, is that the state doesn’t have an accurate tally of how much water is being pulled from its watersheds, nor who exactly is taking it.