California’s snowpack is as healthy as it has been in years, and reservoirs across the state have steadily crept back to typical seasonal levels all winter. So can we take a long shower without feeling guilty now?
Even though the storms have brought much-needed moisture to the state and boosted mountain snowpack, it will not be enough to fully reverse the impact of many dry winters and broader climate patterns that have crippled California’s water supply, experts told KTLA.
“While recent rain and snow have been promising, it will take more than a single wet year for California to fully recover from the last three years – the driest ever recorded in state history,” Karla Nemeth, the director of California’s Department of Water Resources, told KTLA.
While some cities benefit from the snowpack runoff, others depend on groundwater or local reservoirs for the bulk of their local water supply. As a result, recovery from the drought may feel a bit uneven across the state.
Richard Heim, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), predicts that the drought will end in some areas of the state soon rather than later.
“The March U.S. Drought Monitor (USDO) shows that drought will persist in Northern and Southern California by the end of March, but end in more of central California,” Heim said in a statement to KTLA.
NOAA released its monthly precipitation outlook, which projects even more rainy days for the state in March. That means a rainy season will continue to put the drought on the defensive into the start of spring.
In November, less than six months ago, multiple areas in Central California were deemed to be in an “exceptional drought,” the U.S. Drought Monitor’s worst classification. But Drought Monitor shows that designation getting completely wiped off the map after the winter storms. Much of the coastal state now carries the low-level “abnormally dry” label or no drought designation at all.
Heim also predicts that more California regions will emerge from the drought by May.
“The seasonal (outlook) indicates that drought will persist in far southern California but end or remain/improve across the rest of the state by the end of May,” Heim said.
While the drought won’t be entirely gone in California by the spring, the situation will be far less dire than a year ago.
A hefty snowpack, which provides about a third of the state’s water, should replenish reservoirs well into the warmer months of the year.
As of March 3, California’s snow water equivalent was 190% of the average for March 3 and 171% of the full season average. On March 5, the Department of Water Resources provided an update and showed that many of the state’s largest reservoirs are at or approaching historical averages.