The Drought Is Dead — Long Live the Drought!

Friday, March 15, 2019

California: Drought or Deluge

Like theater’s insignia of tragic and comic masks, California has two seasons: a dry season and a wet season, though one should only bet the rent money on the former annually flexing its atmospheric muscles. In this decade, an extended drought that caused weather reporters to fulminate about a “ridiculously resilient high pressure ridge” not only led to a massive die-off of trees in the mountain ranges, but subsequently generated perfect storm conditions for apocalyptic-scale firestorms in both Northern and Southern California.

Although 2017 finally dispelled the hypnotic hold drought had on California, at this time last year it was not at all certain that California could stop fretting about the renewal of drought. Well over half the state was categorized as ranging from “abnormally dry” to “extreme drought” in March, 2018, an assessment that seemed to hint at the drought’s potential return.

In mid-March, 2019, however, the reservoirs are once again brimming, and given the depth of the snowpack, Governor Newsom at least has one less thing to be concerned about during the first half of his term. However, I am curious as to why the article in the Los Angeles Times did not mention the groundwater levels, and whether they will completely recover after all the snow melts. The groundwater wells were drastically overdrawn during the course of the drought, and it seems a bit disingenuous to pretend that all is well when we have yet to receive a groundwater report from CASGEM (California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring).

The reality of perpetual drought is that California cannot let itself get lackadaisical. Every storm that whirls off the Pacific Ocean has as the title of its manifest: “The Drought Is Dead — Long Live the Drought!” The current reserves of water make it all too easy to forget that a mere month and a half ago, a sudden cessation of any rain storms would have left us with enough water to get through the year with careful rationing, but hardly enough to reverse the depletion of the groundwells. In point of fact, compare the levels of California’s reservoirs two years ago, on February 1, 2017, with the levels on the same date, 2019. Even after all the rain in January (https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/01/23/5829411/), the reservoir system as a whole was still not at the same level as the following on Feb. 1, 2017:

FEBRUARY 1, 2017
(First figure, percentage of capacity; second, percentage of historical average)
Trinity — 60& and 84&
Shasta — 77 and 114
Oroville — 80 an 121
Folsom — 53 and 60
New Melones — 42 and 72
Don Pedro — 88 and 128
McClure — 73 and 151
San Luis Reveroir — 84 and 106
Millerton — 66 and 103
Pine Flat — 62 and 131
Lake Perris — 38 and 47
Castaic — 81 and 98

Beginning at the end of January, however, the weather became more chilly in Los Angeles than it had been for over 80 years. Not since the consecutive winters of 1937 and 1937 had Los Angeles gone through a spell of almost six consecutive weeks during which the temperature did not get as high as 70 degrees. Of course this “winter” temperature would be regarded as utterly laughable elsewhere, but the rain storms required more than umbrellas, but also jackets and scarves when one left for work at dawn, the temperature in the mid-40s.

To provide a sense of the rate at which water levels in the state’s reservoirs have increased, I include some comparative readings. In some instances, I would note how a reservoir increased the amount of its capacity by one percent in a single day. This happened at Lake Shasta, Don Pedro, Pine Flat, and Millerton on Feb. 1 – Feb. 2; Folsom increased two percent in that single day. At midnight, on Feb., 16, the same leap occurred: the water levels of Lake Shasta, Oroville, Don Pedro, Pine Flat, and New Melones had ALL increased one percent in a single day.

RESERVOIR LEVELS — Midnight Jan. 31 (leading into Feb. 1, 2019)
(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity Lake — 65% full — 92% historical level
— Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 68 and 93%
Lake Shasta — 64% full — 95% historical level —
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 72 and 102%
Lake Oroville — 40% — 61%
Feb. 15th 50 (fifty) and 74 percent
Folsom Lake — 53% — 103% —
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 67 and 124%
NEW MELONES — 78^ — 131%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT. 82 and 136 percent
Don Pedro — 74% — 108&
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT. 81 and 116%
Lake McClure — 60% — 125%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 71 and 141
San Luis Reservoir — 86% — 109%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 92 and 112
Millerton — 61% — 96%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 71 and 109
Pine Flat Reservoir — 38% — 82%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 50 and 99%
Lake Perris — 87% — 108%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT — 87 and 106
Castaic Lake — 75% – 90%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT — 80 and 94

MIDNIGHT – February 22 (Saturday) (First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity 68 and 93
Shasta — 76 percent capacity and 106 percent historical — in three weeks Shasta gained 12 percent of total capacity.
Oroville is now at 55 percent and 79%
New Melones — up to 83 and 137 percent
Don Pedro — 74 and 108 — WHOA! NEXT DAY!
AT MIDNIGHT, Feb. 23, DON PEDRO JUMPED TO 83 percent and 117 percent (historical average)
Folsom — 63 and 115
McClure 68 and 134
San Luis — 95 and 113
Milleron 72 and 110
Pine Flat — 55 and 106
Lake Perris — 87 and 106
Castaic — 81 and 94

MIDNIGHT – 2/28
(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity — 71 and 96$
Shasta — 87 and 119
Oroville 62 and 89 percent
Folson — 61 and 110 (NOTE: REDUCED)
New Melones 84 and 137
San Luis Reveroir — 97 and 114 (GLUTTED)
Millerton — 70 and 107 — REDUCED)
Don Pedro — 82 and 115
Lake McClure — 64 and 123
Pine Flat — 57 and 108
Lake Perris — 87 and 105
Castaic — 80 and 92

Midnight, March 5
(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity — 72 and 97
Lake Shasta — 87 and 117
Lake Oroville — 67 and 94
Folsom — 63 and 111
New Melones 85 and 138
San Luis Reservoir — 98 and 114
Millerton — 74 and 112
Don Pedro — 83 and 116
lLake McClure — 65 and 125
Pine Flat — 62 and 116
Lake Peris — 87 and 104
Castaic Lake — 79 and 91

MIDNIGHT, March 7, 2019 — Four reservoirs went up significantly — an average of SEVEN percent in the past week; the majority of the other ones rose about two percent.)
(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity Lake — 73 and 97
Lake Shasta — 89 and 119
Lake Oroville — 70 and 99
(OROVILLE WENT UP EIGHT PERCENT IN A WEEK!!!!!)
Folsom — 66 and 115 (FOLSOM WENT UP FIVE PERCENT)
New Melones Lake — 85 and 139
Don Pedro — 84 and 118
San Luis Reservoir (SF) — 99 and 115
Millerton — 77 and 115 (MILLERTON WENT UP SEVEN PERCENT)
Lake McClure — 67 and 127
Pine Flat – 65 and 121 (EIGHT PERCENT)
Lake Perris — 87 and 104
Castaic Lake — 80 and 91

March 9, 2019
(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity — 74 and 98
Shasta — 89 and 117 (Shasta dropped to 88 on March 10)
Oroville —- 72 and 101 (Oroville went up to 73 on March 10)
New Melones —86 and 139
Folsom — 67 and 116
Don Pedro — 85 and 118
McClure — 68 and 129
Pine flat 66 and 122
San Luis — 99 and 114
Lake Perris — 87 and 104
Castaic — 81 and 93

Wednesday, March 13 — Oroville at 74 percent and 102 historical average

March 14, 2019 (Midnight)
(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity — 75 and 98
Shasta — 86 and 111
Lake Oroville — 75 and 103
Folsom — 65 and 108
New Melones Lake — 85 and 137
Don Pedro — 84 and 117
Lake McClure — 69 and 130
San Luis — 99 and 113
Millerton — 83 and 122
Pine Flat — 65 and 119
Lake Perris — 87 and 103
Castaic Lake — 82 and 93