Too early to tell? Many fear another drought as dry winter continues
February 5, 2018
Sunbathers laid atop granite boulders this weekend along the South Yuba River, basking in the unseasonably warm weather.
But despite the vitamin-D boost, many California residents are concerned a lack of precipitation this winter may be leading the state into another drought.
Grass Valley as of Monday had received 24.5 inches of rain since Oct. 1 — about 47 percent of average for that date, according to the National Weather Service.
The weather forecast for this week shows the area isn't likely to receive any more precipitation in the near future, the Weather Service said Monday.
Asked whether California may be heading into another drought, Eric Kurth, a meteorologist with the Weather Service, said it's "the question on everybody's mind."
"A lot of that depends on what happens the rest of this winter … But the odds of us getting a normal winter are decreasing," Kurth said.
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Doug Carlson, an information officer with the California Department of Water Resources, said those pointing to an imminent, statewide drought are jumping to conclusions too quickly.
"A drought is all about local impacts," Carlson said.
The Nevada Irrigation District on Monday said its 10 reservoirs are storing a combined water level that is 141 percent of the historical average for that day.
Elsewhere in the state, the story is much the same, according to the Department of Water Resources.
In Shasta County on Sunday, Lake Shasta's water level was measured at 108 percent of the historical average for that day. On Feb. 4, 2015, in the midst of California's most recent drought, the lake was measured at 65 percent of its historical average.
Butte County's Lake Oroville on Sunday was measured at 61 percent of its historical average. That reservoir's water level has been kept deliberately low, according to Carlson, to allow for construction in the wake of a spillway failure in Feb. 2017 that threatened thousands of lives downstream.
In Tuolomne County, Don Pedro Lake was at 113 percent of its historical average Sunday.
Lake McClure, in Mariposa County, was at 136 percent of its historical average.
Last winter's well-above-average precipitation levels left California in good shape, Carlson said.
The state as a whole isn't in a drought, he said — at least it's not yet.
"We hate to use the word drought at all until it's been officially declared and you can see the reservoirs are low, the groundwater supply is shrinking, there's no surface water," he said. "We may get there again, but we're not there at this point."
NID surveyed the region's snowpack late last month and reported it contained 33 percent of average water content, based on data collected from five sites at varying elevations.
Statewide, the snowpack on Monday contained 24 percent of average water content, according to the Department of Water Resources.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4231.