California’s Drought, Relentless and Inexorable, Takes its Toll

With the rainy season come and gone, drought’s withered hand remained firmly fixed on California this month, as it has been, with few exceptions, for the last decade.

Woes pile up. Rain didn’t save us, the snowpack is all but gone, the Coastal Commission says no desalinating sea water, and urban-interface fires have already begun.

It’s almost summer in the Golden State.

California Got Snow in April and May. What Does It Mean for the Snowpack?

After California saw extended periods of dry weather in the middle of winter, a series of late-season storms swept the Golden State in April and May, dusting the Sierra Nevada with fresh snow.

Did those spring snow showers help bolster the dwindling snowpack that historically provides about a third of the state’s water supply?

The short answer is that every little bit helps, but the snow did not come close to making up for almost no precipitation in January through March, normally the height of California’s wet season, said David Rizzardo, chief of hydrology for California’s Department of Water Resources.

Rain, Heat, Repeat: What Does Erratic Weather Mean for California Drought and Fires?

The pendulum of Northern California weather is getting ready to swing once again, from rain, hail, thunderstorms and snow showers at the start of this week to sunny and much warmer than average temperatures by the weekend.

Temperatures near Sacramento are expected to soar from a forecast high of 65 degrees Tuesday to 92 degrees by Saturday, staying in the upper 80s to low 90s early next week, according to the National Weather Service.

Daytime highs near South Lake Tahoe will jump from the mid-30s Tuesday to the mid-70s this coming weekend. Both are roughly 10 degrees hotter than normal for this time of year.


2022 Is California’s Driest Year on Record So Far – An Ominous Sign for Summer and Fall

California had its driest start to a year since the late 19th century, raising drought and wildfire concerns heading into the summer.

In data released Monday, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information found January through April precipitation in the state was the lowest on record dating to 1895.

The statewide precipitation of 3.25 inches was only 25% of average, topping the previous record-dry January through April from 2013, according to NOAA statistics.

Desalination: California’s Best Hope to Stave Off Water Restrictions in the Future

During the last few years, California’s drought situation has become more and more dire. While a large chunk of it is self-inflicted by the state, as they release an incredible amount of water from dams each year for environmental purposes instead of, you know, agriculture and people, part of it is also that rain and snowpack build have been well below averages in the past. Northern California still has restrictions going on, with Southern California, facing another hot summer, may face a scenario in some areas where water may run out if usage stays as high as it is now.

Vegas Water Intake Now Visible at Drought-Stricken Lake Mead

A massive drought-starved reservoir on the Colorado River has become so depleted that Las Vegas now is pumping water from deeper within Lake Mead where other states downstream don’t have access.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority announced this week that its Low Lake Level Pumping Station is operational, and released photos of the uppermost intake visible at 1,050 feet (320 meters) above sea level at the lake behind Hoover Dam.

“While this emphasizes the seriousness of the drought conditions, we have been preparing for this for more than a decade,” said Bronson Mack, water authority spokesman. The low-level intake allows Las Vegas “to maintain access to its primary water supply in Lake Mead, even if water levels continue to decline due to ongoing drought and climate change conditions,” he said.

The move to begin using what had been seen as an in-case-we-need-it hedge against taps running dry comes as water managers in several states that rely on the Colorado River take new steps to conserve water amid what has become perpetual drought.

California DWR-Phillips Station-Water Conservation-snowpack survey-drought

California Drought Demands Statewide Water Conservation Effort

California is in the third year of drought and water agencies and officials statewide are urging residents and businesses to increase their water conservation.

April 1 is typically when the snowpack is at its highest, however the statewide snowpack likely peaked in early-March this year and the Northern Sierra snowpack peaked in mid-January, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

“The conditions we are seeing today speak to how severe our drought remains,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth on April 1. “DWR has been planning for the reality of a third dry year since the start of the water year on October 1. While DWR has made significant investments in forecasting technology and other tools to ensure we make the most out of the snowmelt we do receive, water conservation will remain our best tool in the face of this ongoing drought and the statewide impacts of a warming climate. All Californians must focus on conserving water now.”

Water conservation critical

While the state continues to take necessary actions to help extend the state’s existing water supply, state agencies are asking all Californians to do their part now to conserve as much water as possible to make it last. Governor Gavin Newsom has also called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15% with simple measures to protect water reserves.

WaterSmart moves to make now

Typical gardening activities such as landscaping, irrigation, and use of fertilizers and pesticides, can lead to stormwater pollution if not done properly. Pollutants such as garden chemicals, soil and sediment, and yard waste can be carried to storm drains by rain and irrigation runoff and end up in our local waterways and ocean without being treated.

Here are some earth-friendly guidelines for WaterSmart gardening and a pollution-free environment.

Plan and Plant Wisely

When planning your landscape, design your landscape to capture water and minimize run-off. Install rain gardens or dry creek beds; use permeable surfaces to allow water to soak into the soil; and direct water from downspouts to landscaped areas. Get planting ideas by checking the California Native Plant Society of San Diego website. When planting, use drought-tolerant or native plants to reduce the amount of water, fertilizers, and pesticides needed and group plants with similar water, sun, and soil needs. Check out the San Diego Water Authority’s Nifty 50 Plants for WaterSmart Landscapes for plants best suited for our climate as well as helpful water-savings tips.

Mulch/Compost Liberally

Use mulch to reduce the need for fertilizers, hold water in the soil, and prevent erosion of exposed soil patches. Sediment is a common pollutant in our waterways and comes from eroded soils. Opt for healthy compost to add nutrients to your soil and further lock in moisture and reduce waste.

Water Smartly

Avoid water waste by repairing leaking or broken sprinklers, adjusting misdirected sprinklers so water does not spray on driveways or sidewalks, and using irrigation methods such as drip irrigation and soaker hoses. Water in short cycles to allow water to infiltrate into the ground, and in the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler outside to reduce water loss due to evaporation.

Learn how much water your lawn and garden actually needs by observing an entire watering cycle (watering guide) or sign up for a free WaterSmart Checkup to receive water-saving recommendations. Rebates may be available to help you prevent over irrigation.

Apply Fertilizers/Pesticides Sparingly

Be sure to read labels and follow directions to avoid improper use and application of fertilizers and pesticides which can lead to stormwater pollution and contribute to toxic harmful algal blooms in both fresh and coastal waters. Only apply chemicals when it is not windy and more than 48-hours from a rainstorm. When possible, use organic or slow-release fertilizers to minimize leaching.

Clean Up Thoroughly

Sweep up spills from fertilizers and pesticides immediately. Blow, rake, or sweep up leaves and debris into a pile for proper disposal into a green waste container with a lid. To make clean up easier and prevent stormwater pollution, protect stockpiles and materials from wind and rain by storing them under tarps or secured plastic sheeting.

Learn more about WaterSmart and sustainable landscaping practices by reviewing the WaterSmart Landscaping Watering Guide in San Diego County and San Diego Sustainable Landscaping Guidelines. Explore even more by participating in the numerous Earth Day/Pollution Prevention events offered throughout San Diego County during the month of April.

Californians Fail to Hit Water Conservation Targets by Wide Margin — is it Disaster Fatigue?

As California’s severe drought worsens, with reservoir levels falling and the Sierra Nevada snow pack shrinking, the state’s residents — particularly in Southern California — are failing by a large margin to hit voluntary water conservation targets set by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Last July, Newsom declared a drought emergency and asked Californians to cut urban water use 15% compared to 2020 levels.

But in January, they did the opposite, increasing water use 2.6% compared to January 2020, according to new data released Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board.

2022 Water Year Looks Dismal as Snowpack Melts

The optimism spurred by heavy snowstorms in December has melted away, and the 2022 water year is now looking bleak.

After facing the driest recorded January and February in state history, California Department of Water Resources reported that statewide, the snowpack stood at 63% of average for the date last week after conducting the agency’s third manual snow survey of the year.

Snow Drought Expands as Western U.S. is Running Out of Time to Replenish Water Supplies

February total precipitation was record low at over 200 Snow Telemetry sites, leading to continued expansion of snow drought conditions across the West. Fifty percent of the SNOTEL sites now have snow water equivalent that is less than one-third of historical conditions, up from 22% in early February.  In California, the driest January and February in state history has led to a March 1 statewide snowpack of less than 70% of average, down from 160% at the start of the new year.