Update from the Pacific Institute California Drought Response Group – September 30


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This week in… Days Gone By

Happy New Year, everyone!

Because the vast majority of precipitation typically occurs in the fall and winter, October 1st marks the start of a new water year.

2015 was, as expected, pretty bad. As we begin the new year, here are just a few of the ways we can reflect on the past:

  • At 58.4°F, the 2015 water year saw the highest average temperature (more than three degrees warmer than average) in 120 years of record-keeping.
  • The average minimum temperature in the Sierra Nevada this winter was 32.1°F, the first time it was above freezing in 120 years of record-keeping.
  • Average precipitation was below normal in most of the state for the entire year.
  • The April 1st snowpack was just 5% of the average since records began in 1950. This was lower than the previous record – 25% of average – set in 1977.

Obviously there is no way to be sure what 2016 will bring and a continuation of the current drought is still a possibility; in the past 90 years, California has experienced two six-year droughts.

The entire state – from individuals up through the state government legislators – has made significant progress in the past four years. Regardless to what happens in 2016, we must all resolve to keep working towards a more sustainable water future for California – in particular, one that is resilient in the face of long-term drought.

In other news…

  • The State Water Resources Control Board lifted drought restrictions on those users with pre-1914 water rights in the Sacramento, Feather River watersheds, and the Delta.
  • The Southern Nevada Water Authority agreed to sell 150,000 acre-feet of water to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, at the cost of $45 million.

California Drought Status

Drought Monitor

Drought conditions remain unchanged from two weeks ago.














Reservoir Conditions

Statewide, California’s major reservoirs (representing 27.3 million acre-feet of storage) are at 28% of capacity and 49% of group average.

















Hydroelectric power generation in July this year was 18% lower than 2014 and 52% lower than the 2003-2013 average.