With this winter’s heavy rains, Central and Southern California have quickly recovered from a three-year drought. However, Northern California is improving at a rate 40 percent slower than the rest of the state, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.
The winter rains resulted in an 83 percent increase of precipitation levels across the state from 2012 to 2016, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. The rains filled California reservoirs to record-breaking levels.
Back in 2014, a drought state of emergency was declared by California Gov. Jerry Brown. As of March 2017, less than 25 percent of the state is experiencing what was called “the worst drought in California history” by the National Drought Mitigation Center.
Southern California is predicted to return to normal conditions by May 2017 and Central California by the end of the year. Northern California, however, is not expected to fully recover until late 2018, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.
For the entire state to be removed from the state of emergency, it is crucial that the Sierra snowpack reaches its capacity by April. Agriculture and flora in the Northern, Central, and Southern Sierra depend on run-off from the snowpack for the summer months.
In 2014, at the peak of the drought, the snowpack held only 33 percent of its capacity. As of March, the snowpack is holding 183 percent above its capacity. This is a 250 percent increase from levels in 2014, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
The Los Angeles area has imported over 80 percent of its water from the snowpack since 2012, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
In 2015, Northern California imported 1.9 trillion gallons of water from the San Joaquin River Delta. This is more than double what the region imported 40 years ago, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
In 2016, Kern County, an area just north of Hollywood, made over $183 million from exporting water to Northern California. This is an increase of over $40 million since 2011, according to the Kern County Water Agency.
“Exporting water to Northern California is the county’s main source of income. However, it can be expensive to build what is necessary to export,” said Kern County Water Agency General Manager Curtis Creel.
Kern County exported over 100 billion gallons of water to the Northern California region’s 1,100 mile levee system last year. From 2012 to 2016, the region spent over $67 billion from to build two tunnels to divert water from the levee system. In the same span of time, over $4 billion was spent to earthquake-proof the levees.
Northern California’s expensive levee endeavor and slower recovery from the drought is due to the farming of crops that rely heavily on water, such as rice, according to Creel.
Creel said that compared to Central and Southern California, Northern California does not have more agriculture. However, Central and Southern California rely more on drought-resistant or less-water consuming plants, such as avocados and almonds.
“It’s not that Northern California has more land to be watered, it’s that the things they plant need more of it. To recover from the drought, they need to change their agriculture,” Creel said.
The story above was written as an assignment for my Journalism 300 class. Information and quotes should not all be taken as fact.