"Abysmal Start" to Water Year in California - NBC Southern California

Coverage of one of California's most severe dry spells on record and its dramatic turnaround

"Abysmal Start" to Water Year in California

California's water year is off to a poor start with only light to moderate precipitation



    What is historically the time of the year when Californians can expect the most precipitation is "off to an abysmal start" after only light to moderate rainfall since Oct. 1 that did nothing to improve drought conditions.

    Precipitation was recorded in central and northern California during the last week, but not nearly enough to provide drought relief, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor report. Three years of drought have left the state's water reservoirs at critically low levels and a mild start to the season in the Sierras suggests conditions might not improve during winter.

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    "The totals still fell short of normal and did nothing to offset the impacts of the ongoing three-year drought," according to the report released Thursday. "The current Water Year has gotten off to an abysmal start."

    Rainfall since Oct. 1, the start of the water year, has totaled 10 to 35 percent of normal in areas around San Francisco categorized by the U.S. Drought Monitor as under "exceptional" drought conditions. Rainfall was at 20 percent of normal in exceptional drought areas around Los Angeles.

    The Drought Monitor report categorizes drought severity into abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4). Nearly 80 percent of the state is under extreme to exceptional drought.

    In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for California as reservoirs levels dropped and snowpack diminished in the Sierras, a vital source of springtime water runoff shared by 25 million Californians. Farmers in the Central Valley have fallowed fields and mandatory water restrictions are in effect as California faces a fourth-consecutive dry year after a summer of record heat.

    Some parts of the state can expect rainfall Thursday into Friday as a storm system develops in the Pacific.

    The U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday Nov. 20, 2014.
    Photo credit: US Drought Monitor

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