US Drought Monitor
A map by the US Drought Monitor showing California drought conditions from Oct. 26, 2016 to Jan. 25, 2017.
The state’s drought means local water agencies must monitor and enforce conservation efforts. This has led to restrictions in the number of days residents can water lawns as well as other rules.
The areas of California that still remain in extreme drought conditions are Santa Barbara and Ventura counties as well as portions of Los Angeles and Kern counties.
One of the indicators of drought conditions down south is Santa Barbara County’s Lake Cachuma reservoir, where it is filled around 13 percent of its historical average. Over the decades, the reservoir has served as a major source of water for Santa Barbara and nearby communities.
A desalination water plant in Santa Barbara is scheduled to go back online in March, which will turn the salty ocean water into drinking water for residents.
Also, in terms of groundwater, the state’s central and southern regions are also still catching up after drought conditions since 2011. The monitor report said groundwater levels to date “have not responded as one might expect, and remain critically low.”
Indeed, Rippey said the recovery in the groundwater is “still a little bit of a question mark” but could end up looking better by spring. “Just depends on the local nature of the aquifers and how quickly they respond to this precipitation,” he said.
Meantime, the snow pack in Sierra Nevada mountain range is showing improvement with the recent tropical storms.
The first official snow pack measurement of the year was held Jan. 3 and showed just 53 percent of the average for that time of year, according to the California Department of Water Resources. But the state’s next official snowpack measurement set for Feb. 2 is likely to show big gains.
Statewide, the average snowpack (essentially water in storage) is almost twice the normal level for late January, according to the weekly monitor. That is significant since the snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water particularly in the spring and summer months.