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Water Year 2014 Ends as 3rd Driest in Precipitation

On Heels of Driest-Ever Calendar Year

Water Year 2014 – overlapping with California's driest calendar year -- ended on September 30 as the state's third driest in 119 years of record, based on statewide precipitation.

(Graphics below show the state's aggregated precipitation in calendar year 2013 was a mere 7 inches, followed by 12.08 inches in Water Year 2014 (October 1, 2013 – September 30, 2014).

So California's deepening drought is racking up some impressive – and destructive –scores as we approach what could be another dry winter.

California has been warm as well as dry.

NOAA's National Climatic Data Center reported that in the first nine months of 2014, California temperatures averaged 63.7º F, or 4.1º F above the 20th century average of 59.6 ºF. Temperatures from April to September averaged 70.0º F, breaking the old record for the period of 69.4º F set in 2013.

And in late July, the U.S. Drought Monitor classified 58 percent of California in “exceptional” drought, the worst category, and that percentage remained unchanged through September. More than 80 percent was in "extreme" drought.

A close eye is being kept on California's reservoir storage which is being drawn down daily to meet California's essential needs for humans, fish and wildlife.

On January 17, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a drought state of emergency. On April 25, Governor Brown asked all Californians to redouble their efforts to conserve water, instructed agencies to cut red tape to get water to farmers more quickly, ensure that people have safe drinking water, protect vulnerable wildlife species and prepare for an extreme fire season. Read the executive order at http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=18496.

The proclamation is available here: http://www.gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=18368.

Statewide Storage

As the Water Year ended on September 30, the state's major reservoirs collectively held only 60 percent of average storage for the date, or about 41 percent of capacity. Cumulative reservoir storage in 1977, California's driest calendar year on record, was approximately five million acre-feet less than this year, but the state had 16 million fewer people then.

Due to the extended dry period and forecasters' inability to predict the drought's end, DWR is delivering a record low five percent of the requested amount of State Water Project water, while the federal Central Valley Project has reduced deliveries to zero for some junior rights holders.

Forest fires, brown lawns, food banks, groundwater legislation and water management debates all are consequences of a deepening drought as the winter months approach without a good reading of whether they will be wet or dry.

"The immediate certainty is that day-to-day conservation – wise, sparing use of water – is essential as we face the possibility of a fourth dry winter," said DWR Director Mark Cowin.

Predictions of El Nino conditions that sometimes alter precipitation patterns have changed during 2014.

But meteorologists note that the El Nino phenomenon is not a reliable indicator of weather in California, especially not in the Northern Sierra watersheds that feed some of the state's largest reservoirs. El Nino is much like its cousin "La Nada" when it comes to its effects on California weather.

DWR and the Association of California Water Agencies urge all Californians to conserve water by following the advice and tips found at http://SaveOurWater.com.

DWR's California Data Exchange Center Web site shows current water conditions at the state's largest reservoirs and weather stations.

Reservoirs: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/reservoir.html
Precipitation: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/snow_rain.html

Legislation Becomes Law

As California's drought deepens, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on September 16 signed historic legislation to ensure a sustainable supply of California groundwater. The three-year drought has increased groundwater extraction in many regions of the state and led to over-drafting and water shortages in some communities. The new law mandates the creation of local groundwater management agencies that will monitor extraction and create sustainability plans that must be in place in 20 years. DWR is given expanded responsibilities under the law, including requirements to revise groundwater basin boundaries and create guidelines for local agencies to write their Sustainable Groundwater Management Plans. More on the historic legislation here: http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=18701

Drought Barriers Cancelled for 2014

February and March storms that slightly boosted water deliveries also eliminated the immediate need for salinity barriers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to control saltwater intrusion from San Francisco Bay, as described in this April 18 news release. The rock barriers would have been installed at Sutter and Steamboat sloughs near Courtland and False River near Oakley. DWR continued to assess water supply and demand in the weeks following the April 18 announcement and concluded in late May that the barriers will not be needed in 2014. Planning and permitting will continue for the barriers’ possible installation in 2015 if drought conditions persist into a fourth consecutive dry year.

The fifth and final snow survey of the season on May 1 recorded manual and electronic readings of the statewide snowpack’s water content – which normally provides about a third of the water for California’s farms and cities – at a mere 18 percent of average for the date. By late May, the Sierra snowpack’s water equivalent statewide had decreased to almost zero.

When Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in January, he directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. CAL FIRE recently announced it hired 125 additional firefighters to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions, the California Department of Public Health identified and offered assistance to communities at risk of severe drinking water shortages and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife restricted fishing on some waterways due to low water flows worsened by the drought. Also in January, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Food and Agriculture also released the California Water Action Plan, which will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems and improve the resilience of our infrastructure.

For more information on drought, see http://www.water.ca.gov/waterconditions/droughtinfo.cfm.

Dry Water Years

Dry Calendar Years

WRCC climate region dry years

 Current Water Conditions