California suffering through driest three years ever recorded, with no relief in sight
RENO — In recent years, California’s drought has become one of its defining features.
But things look far different this year, with the dry conditions that have pushed farmers and ranchers to seek more arid places and the state’s water supply more vulnerable to climate change, not to mention the ongoing federal government water restrictions.
“This is the wettest three years in the past 35-40 years,” said Mike Anderson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.
The record high state precipitation of 15.45 inches was set on Aug. 19, and that was just one day shy of the record, set Aug. 28, 2015, when 16.31 inches had been recorded. That marked a period of time when California, the world’s driest, wettest, and sunniest state, was enjoying its Golden Age.
The five-year period beginning July 1, 2009, is now in its 41st month, but it has seen record-breaking rainfall and the state’s water supply has been threatened by drought, a major factor in the state’s prolonged dryness.
“We’ve hit a wall,” Anderson said.
The average rainfall for the year, Anderson said, has been just 5.9 inches — the wettest on record — and the state’s average water supply is down to just 7.7 percent of average by the end of the year.
Since the state’s first “drought year” in the 1950s, the number of years with 10 percent or more of its average water supply has almost tripled to almost three years.
This year, the Bureau of Reclamation estimates that water supplies for more than 9 million Californians are at 20 percent or less of the average, or more than 7 million. That is a new record.
“We’ve hit a wall,” Anderson said. “Water is being pulled out of the ground at an increasing rate. We have to continue to grow.”
The Bureau of Reclamation does not have a complete forecast of what the water supply looks like after the winter storms. But its projections have shown that water supplies on the lower Colorado River, the main source of water for California, will be about 50 percent