Rainstorms improve severe California drought

Amy Alcantara
Staff Writer

The recent weather in California has helped improve the current state of the drought. California received a significant amount of snow during last month’s rainstorms. 

Rebecca Kimitch, a spokesperson of the Metropolitan Water District, said the snow on the Northern, Central and Southern Sierra is helping with some of the extreme drought conditions the state has seen in the last few years. The Southern Sierra received 224% more snowfall than normal. The Northern Sierra which is what feeds the State Water Project, only got 147%. Southern California gets 30% of its water from the State Water Project. 

There has been a lot of rain and snow compared to previous years. Although the rain is important, the most crucial is now the snowpack.

“What you really want is a thick level of snowpack as of April 1 because April is peak,” Richard Heim, author at National Centers for Environmental Information, said. “In April, it begins to melt off.”

Heim said the snowpack buildup in California has finally reached that level and the reservoirs have begun to fill up. They are slowly filling up and going back to normal and, in some cases, above normal for this time of the year.

Students from the University of La Verne were surprised to see how much it rained and snowed on mountains near campus. 

Lorilie Alvarez, junior biology major, said she saw signs on local freeways requiring vehicles to use chains. She said this is something she had never seen so close to home before.

“The mountains that you see going to school on the 210 were green and not just brown,” Alvarez said.

The weather did affect some students who commute to ULV. Alvarez said one of her friends had to miss class due to road closures near her home. Students and faculty on campus, along with other cities and Southern California residents, received emergency notifications of flash floods.

Victor Carmona-Galindo, professor of biology at ULV and research associate at Center of Investigation and Development in Health at University of El Salvador, said the flash floods occurred because the soil structure in La Verne is not designed for a cityscape. The city was designed to host orange farms and not engineered to drain increases in precipitation.

“That cycle of flash floods may be contributing to the fall and loss of larger trees on campus and in the region,” Carmona-Galindo said.

Although Californians experienced abnormal rainfall and snow, it contributed to the severe state of the drought which can be seen using a drought monitor at droughtmonitor.unl.edu

The U.S. Drought Monitor provides a map that details which states have a drought and its severity. This weekly data is put together by the National Drought Mitigation Center, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The drought monitor map can be accessed by anyone. Heim said the state committees use it as a basis to declare drought emergencies in their states.

“The drought conditions in California have been improving on the Feb. 28 map and in earlier maps in the last couple of months,” Heim said.

Last year, the Metropolitan Water District declared emergency water restrictions due to the severity of the drought. Kimitch said some of those restrictions will be lifted. Some local agencies might still implement or keep theirs depending on their water supply.

Kimitch said as temperatures get warmer in the summer, the use of water will go up, but the water supply will not be affected. 

“As water managers we plan for the year ahead,” Kimitch said. “We will be able to provide a reliable water supply this summer, regardless of how hot it gets.”

Amy Alcantara can be reached at amairani.alcantaramontes@laverne.edu

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