The Drought Creeps Back, Covering 48 Percent of California

The state's reservoirs are far from depleted, but we're burning through much of the reserves last winter's rains provided.

Yep, it’s relatively cold out and parts of Sonoma got hail and a little rain this week, but we’re having a very dry February even though the warmth has subsided. It’s not just San Francisco, either. Well past the halfway point of the water year, just under half the state is technically considered to be in a drought — and some 91 percent of California is “abnormally dry.” That figure is up from 26 percent only three months ago, and worse, it’s more than double the 38 percent figure recorded in late February 2017.

Long-term drought conditions disappeared from the entire northern half of California after last winter’s dam-wrecking winter, but much of the state’s southern interior never fully recovered — and an intensely hot summer followed. Further, it takes much more than a single rain season to replenish the spent aquifers underneath much of the Central Valley. Those underground lakes are only going to deplete further, growing brackish as saltier water moves in through osmosis.

It’s not time to panic, as most of the state’s 11 reservoirs are at well over half their respective capacities and at or above their historical averages — the exception being Lake Oroville, which of course nearly collapsed last February. But if next winter is as dry as this one, we might be back to square one.

Meanwhile, there are approximately 300,000 more people living in the state than there were last year, and almost all of them like a hot shower every once in a while.

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