California drought holds steady amid summer storms, experts say

SACRAMENTO Calif. Thu Aug 14, 2014 5:04pm EDT

A tire rests on the dry bed of Lake Mendocino, a key Mendocino County reservoir, in Ukiah, California February 25, 2014.  REUTERS/Noah Berger

A tire rests on the dry bed of Lake Mendocino, a key Mendocino County reservoir, in Ukiah, California February 25, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Noah Berger

SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - As California lawmakers moved a nearly $7.6 billion water bond to the November ballot, federal meteorologists said on Thursday that the state's ongoing drought has appeared to level off, though conditions remain "extreme" in 80 percent of the state.

"Areas of dryness and drought remained unchanged," according to the National Drought Mitigation Center, based at the University of Nebraska, despite epic storms that have intermittently lashed parts of both Northern and Southern California.

Torrential rains early this month triggered lethal mudslides and flash floods in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles, and thunderstorms both eased and complicated the work of firefighters battling wildfires this week in Northern California.

But those storms "were pretty much a drop in the bucket," said Richard Tinker, a drought expert with the federal government's Climate Prediction Center.

"Any rain this time of year - while a bonus - doesn't really have much of an effect on the drought," Tinker said.

Nearly 82 percent of the state is experiencing "extreme" drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map, which is updated weekly by the center. Fifty-eight percent of the state, meanwhile, is withering under "exceptional" drought, which is the most severe measure on the center's scale.

The figures, while sobering, indicated a pause in what had been a seemingly inexorable expansion of the drought across the nation’s most populous state and most important agricultural producer. The percentage of the state gripped by the drought has been relatively unchanged for the past couple of weeks.

Tinker added that the state's major reservoirs in aggregate were at 59 percent of the historical average—low, but not as low as the 41 percent recorded during the 1976-77 drought.

Only a handful of smaller Central Coast dams, he said, had fallen below those 1977 levels, a situation that lawmakers are seeking to address with the water bond proposed for the upcoming ballot.

Made more urgent as the drought has strained California's water supply to crisis proportions, funds raised by selling bonds would shore up the state's water infrastructure, underwriting projects that include improved water storage, flood control, groundwater cleanup, drinking and wastewater treatment and investments to address climate change.

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Sandra Maler)

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Comments (9)
PCCorruption wrote:
Great, no desalinization plants? Here’s the kicker: “”Democrats saying that damming rivers and flooding canyons to build them is damaging to the environment.”"” Uh, drought is very damaging to the environment you idjuts! CA Dems are a breed apart.

Aug 14, 2014 8:29am EDT  --  Report as abuse
morbas wrote:
Congress must open up infrastructure projects to enable USA economics. Reduce/eliminate naval shipping that uses waste grade oil fuel. Switch to North/Central/South America Rail infrastructure to include a Trans-Bearing Strait route as a matter of efficiency. Re-Engineer rail gauge for reliability and speed. Make Truck/rail/freeway portals at interstate intersections, thus reducing fuel consumption and promoting local electric transport. Build national level canals for water distribution relieving drought by using excessive fresh water run of. We might then improve CO2 sequester by irrigating our mid plane deserts. One of the canal paths through the Rockies could be coupled with a SF to Denver Maglev 2G space ramp using a common power generation infrastructure. Thus promoting Maglev transit as a spinoff of Space Access Maglev launch capacity.
We should build on a strategic infrastructure designed to make USA a Global transportation hub, linking Americas (North Central South) to the old world. Not because this is easy or hard, because this will be our challenge, we must be willing to better mankind.

morbas(i)

Aug 14, 2014 9:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
fedupaj wrote:
Projects to increase water supplies should be done before a severe drought…not after. I guess it never occurred to the politicos that an exceptional drought along with increased demand due to population growth might require additional water supplies. Even now the dumocrats would rather see rain and snow runoff go to the ocean rather than build dams and off stream reservoirs to accomodate the demand. There is no fix for stupid.

Aug 14, 2014 9:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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