After a particularly strong El Niño season in 2016 and early 2017 with 20 inches of rain and 12 feet of snow, the percentage of Calif. out of the drought is now 38 percent, the highest since 2012.
The Calif. drought is known around the nation for plaguing the state with water conservation warnings, increasing the number of wildfires and threatening agricultural output, which is particularly concerning because Calif. provides more produce for distribution than any other state does. The last time only 10 percent of Calif. was in a drought, according to Drought Monitor, was in 2011; since then, the average percentage of drought areas in the state has been between 80 to 90 percent.
When the weather experts first predicted an exceptionally strong El Niño season last year, many had hopes that the rainy season would bring Calif. out of its drought. As a result of the increased rain and snowfall, resevoir capacities rose; the Shasta Reservoir and Lake Oroville have exceeded their past average capacities. These promising statistics have many scientists waiting in anticipation for the drought to finally come to a close; however, others are not so optimistic.
“Water is going to be the next major resource that wars are fought over. It is a fleeting resource. Calif. goes through droughts every ten years, it is the natural cycle. We need to be on board with conserving water even during times when water is plentiful,” Sam Rivera, Science Department, said.
Nick Stockton from Wired claims that the drought is an everlasting characteristic of Calif.’s climate and that the current El Niño, although chipping away at the drought, will not be a permanent solution. Some predict that the drought will worsen when La Niña returns in the spring,.
Despite these patterns, others are more hopeful for northern Calif. as areas along the Sierra Nevada have reported twice the amount of average rain and snow in the El Niño season. Statistics on the drought show that northern Calif. has a more consistent, high precipitation levels and low drought percentages when compared to other areas; a Jan. 2017 image released by the National Drought Mitigation Center revealed that compared to Jan. 2016, northern Calif had significantly less drought areas.
Meteorologists caution that the unexpected wet season could dry up as quickly as it came. There is still an imbalance between the water needs of the state and the water available. Some families, especially those in counties with medium household incomes less than 80 percent of the state medium, do not have reliable access to safe water. Furthermore, some scientists are concerned that the increased rainfall may halt the progress of water conservation or mistakenly lead some to believe that water conservation is unnecessary. So far, Calif.’s water regulations have remained in place; however, they are expected to relax as long as the wet season prevails.
“A lot of evidence from our climate’s history suggests that this resolution to the drought is only temporary. If we are not careful about water conservation, we will risk depleting our water supply,” Junior Kishann Rai said.