Farm Progress

The heavy rain and snow across California and the West will net long-term benefits that outweigh any short-term challenges created by the winter storms

January 13, 2017

2 Min Read
Todd Fitchette

As California aquifers and reservoirs fill, the bright colors on the U.S. Drought Monitor graphic are beginning to wash away.

Not long ago the only portion of the map void of colors depicting everything from “abnormally dry” to “exceptional drought” was that portion of the state bordering Oregon and a couple counties along the North Coast near Oregon.

As of Jan. 10, all of northern California – everything north of Sacramento – is no longer in drought, according to the federal government.

South of there, with the exception of a sliver of land along the coast north of Monterey Bay, remains in some level of drought conditions, though the most extreme of these – “Exceptional Drought” is now limited to the Ventura County area.

This is in stark contrast to a year ago, when over 42 percent of the state was in the most-severe of drought conditions. Now, just over 2 percent of the state’s land mass has those conditions.

A graphic published by the Natural Resource Conservation Service shows that California is not the only state to score significant rain and snow. The Colorado River watershed looks to have had 200-plus percent of its monthly rainfall, which should bode well for lakes Powell and Mead as both have suffered significantly over the past few years.

Anecdotally, this winter feels more like a “typical” winter to long-time Californians who remember what real winters look and feel like.

The Lake Tahoe and Donner Pass regions, for instance, continue to dig out of snow that can be measured in yards instead of inches.

Significant flooding in northern California is not without its property damage, though at the end of the day aquifers there will replenish and come summertime farmers in the Northstate should not have to worry about their water supplies though growers who elected to plant almonds in the heavy soil historically used to grow rice may find their planting decisions were not wise.

South of the Delta may continue to be challenged, though President-elect Trump has signaled that water deliveries to farmers in the southern half of the state will be more available once he is sworn in.


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