It's official, Bakersfield and most of Kern County has officially "recovered" from the drought! However that doesn't mean the drought is over.
The announcement came in this morning's weekly Drought Monitor Report.
(The drought map 2016 vs. 2017)
It is important to note that this doesn't mean the drought has ended. Since much of the Central Coast and Southern California remains in rankings of "Abnormally Dry" (D0) to "Severe Drought" (D2), we still have a long way to go before the entire state will see recovery, if at all. Not all of Kern County has recovered either. The Frazier Park area still remains in "Moderate Drought" and Taft and Delano are in pockets of "Abnormally Dry" conditions.
I spoke to the National Weather Service in Hanford this morning and they confirmed that "technically" (aka politically), the drought isn't "over" until Governor Jerry Brown says it is. The statewide drought emergency the Governor declared in January 2014 still stands. We reached out to the Governor's office to ask for reaction to this morning's report and received a response on behalf of his office from Nancy Vogel, the Deputy Secretary for Communications with the California Natural Resources Agency. Here is what she had to say:
"There’s no rulebook for when a drought is declared or rescinded, but snowpack, groundwater, and reservoir levels at the end of the rainy season will be important factors in assessing the statewide drought emergency declaration. As the past few years have shown vividly, Californians must be ready for drought and flood at any time," Vogel said. "Although this year may be wet, dry conditions could return again next year. 2017 may be only a wet outlier in an otherwise dry extended period. Unfortunately, the scientific ability to determine if next year will be wet or dry (known as sub-seasonal to seasonal forecasting, or long-range weather forecasting) isn’t yet capable of delivering reliable predictions."
So let's talk numbers... We are seeing this drought recovery in Bakersfield and across Kern County thanks to this very wet winter we've been experiencing. So far this month Bakersfield has recorded 1.46" of rain, well above our monthly average of 0.98" for February. Since January 1 we have recorded 4.22" which is nearly double our average of 2.14"! As for the water year (which began on October 1), we have seen 10.01" in total this winter, well above our average of 6.47"! What's so remarkable about that is that it's only February, and we have until the end of September to add to this water year's total!
As for the details coming out of this morning's report, it reads: "Days of heavy precipitation continued to improve mountain snowpack, but created areas of flooding, especially downstream from the favored upslope areas. As of February 21, the daily Sierra Nevada snowpack was 186% of average for the date and 151% of the April 1 climatological peak... Over a foot of precipitation was reported for the week at several CoCoRaHS stations... Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, which have been the epicenter of drought in California in recent weeks, received much-needed rainfall. Over 8 inches of rain was reported at two stations near Santa Barbara and over 6 inches at Ojai (6.97 inches) and Thousand Oaks (6.59 inches) in Ventura County. Streams were running full which helped refill depleted reservoirs in the area. Lake Cachuma rose 24 feet in just one day, which is remarkable and most welcomed. Even though the reservoirs were responding quite favorably, they still have a long way to go before we can classify this area as drought-free. As of February 22, Lake Cachuma was at 82,011 acre-feet, or 42.4% of capacity, Jameson Reservoir was at 52.5% capacity, Lake Casitas at 42.3%, and Lake Piru at 31.7%. These values still represent a significant hydrological drought. Generally a one-category improvement to drought conditions was made from central California to the Los Angeles basin. Areas of D0-L were left in the San Joaquin Valley where wells were still in jeopardy and groundwater aquifers will take many more weeks or months to recharge. D3 was eliminated but D0-D2 were left in place along the Central Coast where the reservoirs were still below average and groundwater has yet to be recharged. D0-D2 were left in place in southern California where the precipitation was not as heavy and longer-term precipitation deficits remained. With the removal of this D3, D2 is now the worst drought condition in the state; August 6, 2013 was the last time California had no D3."
You can read the full report here.