California suffering through driest three years ever recorded, with no relief in sight
The most severe drought in California’s modern history has seen its worst year on record, with more than half of the state under winter-long water restrictions, The Chronicle’s David Hasegawa reports.
As of Friday, 2.6 million people have been ordered to cut water use by 10 percent or more. The state is on pace to lose another 8 million acre-feet of water, to be replaced by about 800,000 acre-feet of supplies from California’s snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The state Department of Water Resources reported that more than 50 percent of the state is in the worst drought it’s seen since 1950. State officials predicted that the number of mandatory orders will climb, as the water restrictions are scheduled to remain in effect through March.
That’s the long-term outlook, and one that should have forecasters scratching their heads.
“I’d have thought this was probably the hottest year we’ll have the next 10 years,” said Jim Hartline, spokesman for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
The drought was especially brutal in Southern California, with several weeks of daily rainfall that would be considered normal in some parts of the state. A few days from now, the Los Angeles River might drop to almost a third of its normal level.
The record-high river level was expected to reach 15.5 feet in some areas. The average level of the main river for this time of year is more than a foot lower than it was the same time last year, the weather service said.
About the same time, the city of Los Angeles began an unusual approach to drought-relief, with the release of water from Lake of the 10 Freeway and the surrounding area.
At its peak, about 5 million people — close to 90 percent of the population of Los Angeles County — were ordered to cut water use by 10 percent or more. Those living in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains, the San Fernando Valley and the Coachella Valley had to cut consumption by 30 percent or more.
All that water was released, in a desperate effort to ease the severe drought that was predicted to last until at least the end of the year.
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck kind of thing,” said Dan Sob