Sprinklers water a lawn in Sacramento on July 15, 2014, during the last drought. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo

No, California’s drought isn’t over. Here’s why.

Jan 4, 2022 at 11:40am

Rachel Becker

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In a clear sign that the drought persists, California today adopted new emergency regulations aimed at stopping residents from wasting the state’s precious water.

The rules ban practices such as hosing down sidewalks and driveways with drinking water, washing cars without a shutoff nozzle on the hose and irrigating lawns and gardens too soon after rain. 

Approved unanimously by the State Water Resources Control Board, the mandates could take effect as soon as Jan. 15 and have a one-year expiration date unless extended. Fines can reach as high as $500, but enforcement will be spotty: Local governments and water agencies are allowed to enforce them at their discretion, and they will largely be complaint-based.

“There’s not going to be like a statewide force of water cops or anything like that,” said Eric Oppenheimer, the water board’s chief deputy director. 

California’s drought is not over despite a bounty of snowfall and rain over the past month: California’s snowpack — a critical source of water — is 150% of average for Jan. 4. But with three months left of the wet season, it’s not enough to bring an end to the severe drought and water shortages.

California still needs about another foot of snow water content — the amount of water contained in the snowpack — by the end of March to reach its historic seasonal average, according to the state data. Almost 16 inches of snow water content have accumulated by today.

“December alone will not end the drought, clearly,” said Jeanine Jones, interstate resources manager for the Department of Water Resources. “December was wonderful, but now we just hope it keeps on going.”

The amount of water now stored is actually worse than last year at this time: The state’s reservoirs in December were projected to contain about 78% of average — compared to about 82% in 2020.

Moderate to exceptional drought still grips the entire state, and a soggy start to the rainy season does not guarantee even an average water year. California has felt that false hope before: In 2013, during the last record-breaking drought, a wet December turned into a dry January and February. 

Climatologists predict that the state will dry out during the rest of the winter and spring.

“After we get through this weather system this week, things go dry. And the expectations are a drier than average January, February and March,” said California’s state climatologist Michael Anderson.

And conservation still lags. California Gov. Gavin Newsom in July called for Californians to voluntarily cut water use by 15% in the face of the ongoing drought. But state officials today announced statewide savings of only 6% from July to November compared to last year. 

November, a dry month, saw only a 6.8% reduction in water use — down from 13.3% in October, which saw torrential rains. The greatest savings came from the northern half of the state; water use increased slightly by 0.8% in Southern California.

Continue reading the article from CalMatters here