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California’s drought is said to be alleviated by rain and snow, but it could take time

California’s drought is said to be alleviated by rain and snow, but it could take time

California has been hit with torrential rains and colossal snowfalls since late last year, which has helped pull nearly two-thirds of the state out of the drought.

In fact, according to the US Drought Monitor, only 36% of the state of California is in a drought as of March 16, compared to 100% on January 1st.

And looking ahead, “it seems like most of surface water drought — drought involving streams and reservoirs — in California could be eliminated by summer,” said Dan McEvoy, a drought and water researcher at the Desert’s Western Regional Climate Center Research institutes.

Rain and snow will help replenish the water system depleted by the drought

Eleven atmospheric river storms that began in late December have hit California with record amounts of rain and snow.

On March 13, for example, current-season snowfall at the Central Sierra Snow Lab on California’s Donner Pass topped 650 inches, compared to a normal full-season of about 360 inches, according to the drought monitor.

After winter storms, the drought subsides

Winter precipitation has erased California’s exceptional and extreme drought for the first time since 2020.

“Clearly, the amount of water that has fallen this year has mitigated the drought,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It hasn’t completely ended the drought, but we’re in a very different place than we were a year ago.”

Where does California’s water come from?

California’s water comes from a mix of sources including snowpack, reservoirs, and groundwater.

Though winter storms have helped the state’s snowpack and reservoirs, groundwater basins are recovering much more slowly, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Many rural areas still face water supply problems, particularly communities that rely on groundwater supplies that are being depleted due to the ongoing drought.

It will be more than a single wet year before groundwater levels nationwide improve significantly, the department said in a release.

According to a recent study, rains after a drought must have time to flow through the soil and restore the depleted aquifer before the water table can return to normal. The researchers found that this can take up to an average of three years.

Contribution: The Associated Press

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