A series of storms over the past month have resulted in a marked improvement in California’s drought situation across the country, which has pulled much of the southern part of the state out of more severe categories.
Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties all saw significant improvements in December, the latest maps from the US Drought Monitor show.
Nearly all of Los Angeles and Ventura counties are outside the “extreme” drought category and are now experiencing less severe “severe” drought conditions, according to the latest December 28 map.
Meanwhile, large parts of San Bernardino County fall into the “severe” category, with the southwest corner experiencing “moderate” drought.
The whole of Orange County is in the “moderate” category, as is most of Riverside County, where the southwestern part of the country still lingers under “severe” drought conditions.
Although California remains bound by drought, recent storms have made a huge dent – with major improvements happening even in just one week, federal data shows.
At the end of December, the percentage of the state that was in the most severe “extraordinary” drought state dropped from around 23% to below 1%. In the “extreme” category, the figure dropped from almost 80% of the state to almost 34%.
According to the National Weather Service, California has already received more rainfall in the first three months of the state’s water year than the entire period 2020-2021. The last water year ranked among the driest in Golden State history.
In Los Angeles County, current water year totals are already drastically exceeding those of the previous year, NWS data shows.
California’s water year runs from October 1 to September 30.
California’s snow package is also in good shape, according to the first survey of the water year, which was conducted last week. It turned out to have a snowwater content of 160% of normal for this time of year.
The snowbag is a critical source of water for the state, which accounts for about a third of California’s supply when it melts in late spring to summer and fills reservoirs.
Still, officials are wary of total December rainfall and snowfall, noting that they do not always translate into wetter months deep into the winter – something that must continue for California to emerge from the drought.
“Of course we’ve got off to a good start,” Sean de Guzman, head of snow surveys and water supply forecasts at the state Department of Water Resources, said at a news conference last week. “We still have some way to go back to our wet season. And we need more and more of those storms to keep getting through.”
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