Third-driest year reported in California
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has marked 2021 as the third-driest water year, a period marked from October to March, on record for the Golden State, potentially setting up another deadly wildfire season after last year’s record setting blazes.
The department’s annual snow survey released this month recorded precipitation levels at 50 percent the annual average for the water year.
The dry conditions can also be seen in the state’s water supply, with the department reporting that California’s major reservoirs are at just 50 percent of overall capacity.
At Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s largest reservoir, water levels are currently at 53 percent of the average, DWR found.
Department Director Karla Nemeth said in a statement along with the report that there is “no doubt California is in a critically dry year.”
“State agencies, water suppliers and Californians are more prepared than ever to adapt to dry conditions and meet the challenges that may be ahead,” she continued. “With climate change impacting how precipitation falls in California, ongoing water efficiency and long-term efforts like recycling water, capturing stormwater, and planting water-friendly landscapes are essential to securing California’s water future.”
The 2021 water year is tied for third-driest with the 2014 season, following the second driest recorded in 1924.
California’s driest year on record was in 1977, when recorded precipitation was less than 35 percent the average, according to a report that year from the U.S. comptroller general.
The DWR said in its report that compared to years past, California is better prepared to handle drought conditions. The state following the 2012 to 2016 drought enacted programs “focused on managing the state’s water through a strategic, integrated approach with a strong emphasis on water use efficiency and conservation,” according to DWR.
This month’s DWR report comes after 2020 brought a record-breaking year of weather and climate disasters, with the western drought and record-high temperatures causing a series of wildfires across California that burned more than 4 million acres and caused an estimated $10 billion in property damage.