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.