Despite an ample amount of recent rainfall, a majority of the state is still experiencing a moderate drought that is likely to persist.
It was announced in February that parts of the state had been pushed back into a drought following a significantly dry winter in California — conditions that have been amplified as the days go by. Currently, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 42 percent of the state is experiencing a moderate drought, while an additional 31.8 percent is abnormally dry.
Prior to the month of March, the current water year beginning in September was the fourth driest in Turlock Irrigation District’s history. There were bouts of relief throughout the month, however. In March, the Tuolumne River Watershed received 5.34 inches of precipitation, nearly reaching the historical average of 5.35 inches for the month. Locally, Turlock received 1.7 inches of rainfall in March.
Over the weekend, a large and slow-moving storm system swept through the Central Valley bringing bands of heavy rain and gusty winds. So far in April, there has been 2.61 inches of precipitation accumulated in the Watershed and 0.8 inches locally. According to TID, the average precipitation for the entire month of April is 3.30 inches.
Since the beginning of the current water year, the Watershed has received 19.61 inches of precipitation — approximately 62.6 percent of average for the date — with the snowpack at 49.4 percent.
“Although the past few weeks have been wet, the overall year has been extremely dry and conditions would need to be unseasonably wet moving forward to get remotely near normal levels,” TID Hydrologist Olivia Cramer said.
On April 1, The Department of Water Resources conducted the fourth manual snow survey of 2020 at Phillips Station, opting to provide video coverage of the results instead of a live media event due to the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, results showed that statewide, the snowpack was just 53 percent of the April average.
“While today’s survey results show our snowpack is better off than it was just last month, they still underscore the need for widespread, wise use of our water supplies,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said. “California’s climate continues to show extreme unpredictability and February’s record dryness is a clear example of the extremes associated with climate change.”
According to DWR, California is experiencing increased extremes and variability due to climate change. In one year, California has gone from having the fifth best recorded snowpack to one of the 10 worst.
“Over the last decade, California’s snowpack has been alternating between extremely wet and extremely dry,” stated Sean de Guzman, chief of DWR’s Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecast Section. “In the past 10 years, we’ve seen three of our smallest snowpacks on record, but we’ve also seen three of our largest snowpacks on record.”