Have the recent storms put a dent in California's historic drought?
Back-to-back storms have dumped several inches of rain, filled Southern California reservoirs and added much-needed water to natural underground storage basins. Yet, experts are saying that we shouldn't assume any of it will cure our historic drought.
"I would say we've had a 23-year drought and so we're trying to dig out of that hole," said Municipal Water District of Orange County Director Karl Seckel. "And you can't dig out of it in a series of storms. It's going to take multiple years to dig out from that."
The next series of storms will build an even deeper snowpack that is now more than 200% of normal. As it melts into streams, water managers are hoping the water can be captured. However, others are worried that weather extremes caused by climate change could quickly melt the snow and cause devastating consequences.
"Snow is like a natural reservoir," said UC Irvine engineering professor Amir Aghakouchak. "It helps but also a lot of snow, especially if you have a warm spring, can increase your chances of flooding."
Billions and billions of gallons of rainwater have rushed out into the ocean. Seckel supports new investments that would capture stormwater rather than allow it to run off into the ocean.
"In years like this, when there's plenty of water, diverting that water conveying it to where it can be stored — storage may be in groundwater basins," said Seckel. "And that's a good place to store it, but storing it to where we can 'squirrel' it away and use it for future years is what needs to be happening."
The recent rain has also helped by reducing water demand. However, one water manager claimed that despite all of the rain, many of us will still be asked to ration water this summer.
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