How much does rain help California’s drought?

California experienced devastating years of drought It dried up reservoirs, forced authorities to appeal to residents to conserve water, and limited supplies to vital agricultural land.

suddenly, The state was hit by a series of severe storms, expect more in the coming days. Despite the devastating toll, the rains are soaking water-craving states. Experts say it will improve the drought situation, but the exact amount is not yet clear. Rain and snow alone are not enough to repair parts of California. long-standing water problem that climate change is getting worse.

“We are moving to a warmer, drier climate,” said Jeanie Jones, interstate resource manager for the California Department of Water Resources.

Here’s how storms affect California’s long battle with drought.

Where does rain help?

California has seen six atmospheric rivers in recent weeks, with as many as three more likely, and the storms will continue for at least another week, Governor Gavin Newsom told Santa Cruz County on Tuesday. told from wooden pier.

The storm poured an enormous amount of water into the state, especially central California, which includes the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento Valley. The storm also brought snow to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which runs along California’s eastern border.

Some of the depleted reservoirs are beginning to fill up, especially those near the hardest-hit Sacramento area and parts of the Sierra Nevada. Reservoirs are essential to irrigating the Central Valley, a productive agricultural land that grows large amounts of fruit, nuts and grains. Reservoirs also provide water for millions of people living in coastal cities.

A small reservoir in Sonoma County, for example, was about half its historical average at Christmas, but rose to 80% of its average on Monday.

“So far, we’re probably in good shape for at least next year,” said Alan Haynes, a hydrologist who heads the Nevada River Forecasting Center in California.

So far, it’s also one of the best years in decades for snow accumulation, according to state officials. Snowpacks are a unique type of reservoir that ideally slowly dissolves into a reservoir to store moisture and supply residents with water during the dry months of summer and fall. In addition to the rain, the storm brought snow, bringing the total snowfall more than double his average for this time of year.

where does the storm fall?

It’s still early winter and it’s unclear what will happen in the coming months. The statewide snow cover around this time last year also looked promising. But a warm and dry few months followed, and when snowfall was expected to peak in his early April, snowfall was just 38% of its historical average.

“We are not out of the drought yet,” said Laura Feinstein, who leads research on climate resilience and the environment at SPUR, a public policy nonprofit.

What’s more, the storm hasn’t dropped as much water in Northern California.Hains said Lake Shasta’s reservoir, which was at a historical average of 55% at Christmas, rose to 67% on Monday.

Atmospheric rivers are not impressive anywhere. “When you spray it all over your garden, it moves around like a garden hose,” said David Gotsis, an expert on the effects of water on weather at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

“These largest reservoirs are so large that it will probably take a while before they fill up,” he said. In some of the largest and most important reservoirs, it can take five or six such floods, he said.

Atmospheric rivers are likely to still weaken, said David Novak, director of the National Weather Service’s Center for Weather Prediction. The problem is that the already wet ground cannot absorb any more water, creating runoff problems. Within about 10 days, weather patterns could change and eventually “turn off the tap,” he said.

Drought also hit the Colorado River, a major source of water for Southern California, drying up the river’s major reservoirs. Recent storms won’t solve that problem.

What about long-term issues like climate change?

Many California farmers pump water from the ground. Vast amounts are drawn from aquifers that deplete groundwaterSome wells are running dry. Experts say this is a deep-rooted problem that will not be solved by a series of short-lived storms.

And California faces long-term problems. Despite some wet years, California’s drought has been around for about 20 years. Climate change is creating drier and hotter conditions. Water evaporates faster. California officials predict the state will run out of water in the future.

“So in that big picture, this series of storms is really just a drop in the bucket,” Jones said.


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Contributed by Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein of Denver and Kathleen Ronayne of Sacramento.