El Nino brought a lot of rain to the Central Coast this past winter, but sadly it was not enough to slake the long drought our state is experiencing. Nine out of 12 California reservoirs are over 50% full—that’s a big improvement since March when we last reported on the topic. At that time the majority of state reservoirs were still less than half full. But despite the improvement in reservoir levels, the U.S. Drought Monitor classifies about half the state as still experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions. Northern and south-eastern portions of California benefitted most from winter precipitation, but even those areas are still considered abnormally dry or in a moderate drought condition.
It’s easy to forget the big picture when we are dealing with the smaller, every day impacts of drought. Increased water rates, restrictions on household water use, brown lawns and watching popular recreation areas literally shrink before our eyes seem like major inconveniences. But they are mere drops in the bucket. Serious consequences of long-term drought can be devastating and, in some cases, irreparable. Seawater intrusion, damage to fragile ecosystems, and the destruction of infrastructure are a beginning. Continuous excessive pumping of groundwater and aquifer depletion can only be avoided through conservation.