Nov 5, 2016

California divided by drought – north is wet, south is dry

Costa Mesa, CA
Santa Ana, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Santa Barbara, CA
USA
by
Ellen Knickmeyer and Amy Taxin
,
The Orange County Register
In this Feb. 25, 2016, photo, Mike Stearns, chairman of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, checks the soil moisture on land he manages near Firebaugh. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP
In this Feb. 25, 2016, photo, Mike Stearns, chairman of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, checks the soil moisture on land he manages near Firebaugh. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP

California’s historic drought finally is easing in parts of the north, thanks to October rains that were three or more times the norm.

...

But the five-year drought only is deepening in parts of Central and Southern California, including the 21 percent of the state that remains stuck in the deepest category of drought. In the Orange County city of Santa Ana, Cantuna, a 52-year-old machinist, doesn’t even think about turning on his backyard sprinklers anymore.

...

All of California remains under a state-declared drought emergency. That follows what was the driest four-year span in history in the state. At peak, 100 percent of the state was in drought, and Gov. Jerry Brown ordered 25 percent conservation for cities and towns.

Many farms saw water allotments cut, leading to a rate of groundwater pumping that caused countless rural drinking-water wells to run dry and made the land sink more than 1 foot in parts of the Central Valley. The drought has further imperiled dozens of native fish and other species.

Last month brought a much wetter start to the state’s winter rainy season than usual, after near-normal rain and snowfall in 2015. Officials lifted mandatory statewide conservation earlier this year, but stressed they could clamp down again if the rainy season fails or water use shoots up.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor’s weekly report said nearly one-fourth of the state was out of drought. That was California’s best showing in three years.

California has the biggest share of its 39 million people in the south, but gets most of its water from the north.

That made the past month’s rain good news for agencies like the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the country’s largest supplier of treated water, serving Los Angeles and 25 other cities and districts. But Metropolitan’s other big water source is the Southwest’s Colorado River, which remains in drought, spokesman Bob Muir said.

Thanks to stepped-up conservation under the drought-emergency declaration, Metropolitan expects to deliver about three-fourths of the usual water supply for households and others this year, Muir said. The rest will go into storage, in case the drought persists, and into the ground to replenish depleted underground reservoirs.

As of September, more than a third of the state’s water agencies still were managing to save 20 percent or more water compared to the same month in 2013, the benchmark year.