Kate Ferguson is editor-in-chief of WQP. Ferguson can be reached at [email protected] or 847.391.1007.
Mar 09, 2017

From Drought to Deluge

lake tahoe california drought snowpack measurement

Oh, how California’s water fortunes have turned. Just less than two years ago, in April 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown stood in an empty brown field—a field that usually was stacked with 5 or more ft of snow at that time of year—and announced mandatory water use reductions to combat the state’s severe drought.

That year, California’s snowpack, which supplies one-third of the state’s drinking water, measured at 6% of average. As of last week, NPR reported, the snowpack is measuring at 185% of average.

The increase in precipitation has been both a blessing and curse. Due to the heavy precipitation this winter, California’s reservoirs already are at capacity, and many areas of the state are no longer considered to be in a state of drought. This is great news in terms of drinking water supplies, but also brings up concerns about where the water from the snowpack will go when it melts in the spring. Extreme storms already have pushed the state’s infrastructure to its limits. According to an Associated Press report, flooding from the storms has caused $1 billion in damage.

Despite the now-abundant water supplies, Brown is not rushing to declare an end to the drought and the water-use restrictions. According to NPR, Brown said he would wait for the April measurement of the snowpack - when it is considered to be at its peak - "before making a call on the drought and the water conservation measures that were implemented as a result of the dry years."

With plenty of water now available, it would be easy to return to pre-drought water use practices, but that may not be in California's long-term best interest. Another drought could be in California's future, and keeping up with water conservation and efficiency practices could help alleviate a drought's impact when the time comes. While mandatory water use reductions may no longer be necessary, campaigns encouraging the public to use water wisely would serve as a reminder that water conservation practices are not just for times of drought.

What are your thoughts on declaring an end to the California drought? How could residents and businesses be encouraged to continue practicing water conservation? Let us know in the comments or email us at [email protected].

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