It may be a drought, but we’re not panicking yet

In the late 1970s, California experienced a drought severe enough to require water rationing. I found that a very traumatizing experience, perhaps because it reminded me that, no matter how sophisticated we become, we are nothing without water. Now, as California faces its 5th driest January since 1850, I’m starting to get my drought fear back again:

This season’s scant rainfall doesn’t yet mean we’re in a drought — but it’s starting to feel that way. San Francisco is on track to post its fifth-driest January since 1850.

So far, San Francisco has recorded only 0.65 inches of rain compared to a normal rainfall of 4.72 inches. The city’s driest January on record was in 1926 when only 0.26 inches of rain fell.

And California as a whole is just as parched. Most crucially, the Sierra snowpack — which provides Californians with most of their drinking and irrigation water — has only 45 to 60 percent of its normal water content, depending on location. And it’s not improving.

“The snowpack is declining,” said Dan Gudgel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “Every day that goes by with no precipitation puts us further behind with less prospect of catching up.”

That’s because California typically gets most of its precipitation in January, February and March, Gudgel said. Worse, no significant storms are headed this way.

“Nothing is coming for at least the next week,” he said. “We’re heading into a dry February.”

The same article says our reservoirs are still in good shape, so I’m not panicking, but this has the potential to be very depressing and demoralizing. I also just happen to like rain. That is, I love rainy days, and I miss them. | digg it

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  • jg

    Many of us in the armed forces had to choose between living in California or returning to our Eastern homes. It was in part the rain that drew me home.

    It rained the first April day I arrived in California, and then no more for months. Can always superb weather be depressing?

    Winter can be a beautiful time because one gets to see the bones of the land. (In between rain, sleet, ice and snow.) During our time in Indiana we could walk and walk, and have the world to ourselves, to see the black and white of the trees, the hills, the shape of the real world beyond our manmade sprawl and clutter. An essential world. Home to us all, and not just humans.

    Winter, fall, snow, all missing from my California days. I do wish you rain, Bookworm, but not too much for that can be a disaster as well. Drought is always an understandable fear.

  • Danny Lemieux

    If you run out, come and visit us by the Great Lakes. There’s plenty to spare. Four seasons and good schools, as well.