For the last few years, the U.S. Drought Monitor map has become an all-too-familiar image for water-conscious Californians. We’ve watched the brown splotch designating “exceptional drought” metastasize like an infected scab, encompassing the Central Valley, then most of SoCal, eventually consuming nearly the entire state. But today, for the first time in years, that drought map looks very different.
“Major changes were made in many areas of the West due to this week’s parade of moisture-laden Pacific storms and an already wet Water Year,” according to report author David Miskus, meteorologist for the NOAA/NWS Climate Prediction Center. Only 2 percent of the state is experiencing the dreaded exceptional drought, down from 18 percent earlier this year.
Compare today’s new map with the map of just one week ago:
But for an even more incredible comparison, check out today’s map and the map of one year ago today:
The precipitation is also falling where it counts, writes Miskus. “Significant increases were made to the capacity of the state’s major reservoirs as most were above the normal January 10 historic levels and still filling with most USGS monitored streams at near or at record high flows.”
Indeed. A peek at reservoir levels across the state shows a lot of blue.
Now check out the snowpack report. The statewide average is at 161 percent above normal for this date!
The one area that’s still experiencing “exceptional” drought? The Central Coast region including Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Kern Counties. The reservoirs serving those communities, like Lakes Cachuma, Casitas, and Piru, are still far below normal. And there are still no stream flows in the Santa Ynez, Ventura, and Santa Clara watersheds.
As the state braces for even more wet weather, we’re in for at least another day of rain and even some local snow above 5,000 feet. But as Heal the Bay reminds us, rain brings all sorts of other problems when it comes to flooding, runoff, and marine pollution. So stay safe, and let’s hope that drought map changes even more by this time next week.