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Think the drought is over?
Allison Carmody '17, Sustainability Intern for Food & Dining
California is on track to have one of the wettest water years on record, a far cry from the past five years of bone dry winters. The news is filled with photos and reports of overflowing reservoirs, drought-free proclamations and forecasts of pouring rains. As of February 21st, California has received 186% of normal precipitation and has seen the most snowpack since 1995. This is great news, but don’t be fooled! We have escaped from the exceptional droughts of the first part of the decade. Once the weather warms, the snowpack will begin to melt more rapidly, replenishing the reservoirs for drinking and agricultural uses. The gradual rate of snowpack melt also assists in replenishing the waning streams, lakes and rivers throughout the state. However, California still has a long road to recovery ahead.
Much of California’s water crisis has stemmed from depleted underground aquifers, which is considered a hydrologic drought. Reservoirs may be full, but the aquifers throughout the Central Valley are still in desperate need of recharge. Aquifers take decades to recharge--it’s not a task that can be accomplished by a few months of heavy rain. It is imperative that we are mindful to still be conservative in our water use. Rushing streams may paint a lovely picture, but the situation is still grim underneath the surface. As NOAA writer Deke Ardnt reflects, “weeks of rain will relieve wildfire and agricultural impacts, but we need seasons to years of rain to restore groundwater.”
Follow the 4 R’s to keep conserving in California:
- Reduce your impact on our still depleted aquifers by making mindful choices when eating. A diet filled with veggies & legumes requires less water withdrawal by farmers than those reliant on industrially farmed meats.
- Reuse water in your home! Collect greywater from your shower in a 5 gallon bucket and use it to flush your toilet. Or, try out water reuse in your kitchen--pasta water can be reused multiple times, as can water that was used for veggie steaming.
- Recycle water! Recycled water is becoming an increasingly prevalent way to conserve water and recharge aquifers. Learn more about it here.
- Respect nature for it’s power. The constant rain and future snowpack melt means flooding will be common. Be sure to be safe and avoid flooded areas that you may hike, drive, bike or walk through.
Want to learn more? Visit “Beyond the Data,” a blog by NOAA that analyzes all the complex science and makes it understandable.