Is the drought over?

Payton Gordon , Staff Writer

California has been in a drought for a while. Starting in 2012, the state entered into a period of historically low precipitation. The lack of water causes numerous problems, as water is used for nearly every industry, especially farming. Obviously, the human inhabitants of California consumes large amounts of water, so citizens of California have been constantly encouraged to reduce water use, with viral marketing campaigns to shorten shower times and cut the amount of times you can wash your car. But does the recent weather we’ve been receiving mark the end of such conservation efforts? Probably not.

This year, there has been an obvious increase in rain, which causes some to think the terrible drought is finally over and we can all move on with our lives. In northern California, the Oroville Dam even faced the possibility of compromise due to the heavy rainfall and subsequent overfilling. This and other flooding scenarios unfortunately are not representative of the situation as a whole. Water in California is stored in three different ways: surface water, snowpack and groundwater.

Surface water, which consists of streams, lakes, rivers and reservoirs has been in great supply since the recent rainfall. This is obviously good in the short term, as the people of the state will have ready access to this water. The snowpack, which melts after the winter and supplies much of California’s water during the spring, also has been in great supply. Many mountains such as Heavenly Mountain and Squaw Valley have accumulated over 125 inches of snow. However, the cause for concern lies in the groundwater reserves, which are still not fully replenished. Groundwater is water found naturally in aquifers in the ground, and is essential to many endeavors man wishes to use water for. The groundwater was depleted during the drought, as many who typically relied on conventional rainfall (industry) turned to the groundwater to serve their needs. The resultant depletion of the groundwater supplies means years of steady and consistent rainfall are necessary to return the groundwater to its initial state.

But why is the groundwater so difficult to replenish? Well, scientists don’t know with certainty all the different factors which play into the groundwater, but they know rapid rainfall in short intervals like we have been receiving recently often times results in running water above ground, which never has a chance to soak deep down. We will likely need many years of consistent rain in order to replenish our groundwater to a condition which does not cause worry.

So the short answer for the big question regarding the California drought: it’s not over.

Don’t let the recent rainfall dismiss your concerns regarding the lack of water in our state. We have not fully recovered, so you should still try to save water. And maybe, if you’re feeling really ambitious, apply the conservation techniques you’ve gained while saving water to all aspects of your life, and save the world.