California is currently in its fifth year of a severe water drought with no end in sight. The United States Geological Survey states a drought is a period of drier-than-normal conditions that results in water-related problems. When rainfall is less than normal for several weeks, months, or years, the flow of streams and rivers declines, water levels in lakes and reservoirs fall, and the depth to water in wells increases. If dry weather persists and water supply problems develop, the dry period can become a drought. California is currently in its fifth year of severe drought with no end in sight.
While several California communities benefitted from this past winter’s rain and snow, precipitation levels were still just below average. Currently, parts of Northern California and most of Central and Southern California remain in severe water drought status with well below average precipitation and water runoff.
Will La Niña Affect California?
Following an El Niño, a cooling of ocean temperatures known as La Niña often occurs. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has taken down the La Niña Watch, since it no longer looks favorable for La Niña conditions to develop within the next six months. This is good news for California as a La Niña would result in drier than average temperatures this winter. Michael Dettinger, a research hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Southern California says, “It seems like the tropical ocean is getting ready for some sort of La Niña – cool water is building up under the ocean surface in the eastern tropical Pacific – but the trade winds haven’t engaged in ways that encourage that, and so the models are responding by suggesting a possible fizzle.”
Is Water Conservation Helping?
On September 7, 2016, The Fresno Bee reported that Californians are still saving water despite the recent lifting of mandatory statewide conservation, but not as much as they were last year at the peak of the drought. Drier and hotter Southern California, which gets much of its water from Northern California rivers, marked one of the biggest drops in conservation last month, saving 16.9 percent compared to 28.2 percent in the same month last year.
California’s Water Resources Control Board began lifting the statewide cutback order in the spring after an El Niño weather pattern brought near-normal rain and snow to Northern California; however, officials continue to urge conservation statewide as they do not know if this coming winter will begin to erase the extended drought.
How Can I Really Help Conserve Water?
The drought cannot be alleviated in one year and with California always prone to dry conditions, daily water conservation habits are a must. Some things you can do to conserve water are:
• Repair any water leaks in your home
• Only fill the bathtub halfway or less when taking a bath and limit showers to five minutes
• Recycle indoor water and use it for plants
• Only wash clothes and dishes when you have full loads
• Turn the water off while brushing your teeth and shaving
• Install a high-efficiency toilet
• Install a tankless water heater for instant home water heating
• Plant water-wise plants and shade trees
• Install drip irrigation and add a smart controller
• Set mower blades to 3″
• Clean outdoor areas with a broom
• Use mulch as it keeps the soil moist
• Adjust sprinkler heads and fix leaks
Conserving water not only helps during water drought conditions, it will also save you money on monthly water bills. Saving water also means using less energy; therefore, your carbon footprint is reduced and that helps the country become more energy independent.
As mentioned earlier, the drought in California is severe and relief is nowhere near. Several California communities have been deeply impacted by the water drought. If La Niña fizzles out, that could mean good news for California. Remember to do your part to help conserve water, this equates to fewer instances of water supply problems developing that will only worsen drought conditions.