For the past five years, the state of California has been in a state one of emergency when it comes to one of nature’s most prized possessions: water. It was not until recent years that Californians were asked to make significant changes in their daily rou
tines in order to conserve water.
On January 17, 2014 state governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on the California drought.
This meant that residents of the United States would be required to cut back on all forms of water usage. This included everything watering plants, washing cars, bathing, using the restroom, and ordering a glass of water at a restaurant. Each resident of the state was asked to do their best in conversing water, as the supply was limited.
However, as El Niño has began rolling it, it was Northern California that began to see a major improvements in their water levels.
Early this year, the Los Angeles Times reported on the extreme El Niño conditions taking place in the Pacific Northwest in which was traveling along the cost, primarily reaching Northern California.
The Los Angeles Times received an interview from Stanford University climate scientist, Daniel Swain who stated, “Of all the years in which there was a strong El Niño present in the tropical Pacific Ocean, this is the wettest start to any of those years that we’ve observed in the Pacific Northwest, both in Portland and Seattle.”
The same article shared images of homes that were flooded from the heavy rains.
A few months later, the Los Angeles Times again reported the increase in water levels in Northern California.
In this report, they shared the ways in which the water crisis has changed for Northern California stating that there had been an increase in levels of snow, rain water, and work to fill reservoirs.
A chart provided by the U.S. Geological Survey reiterated this truth by providing a map of California which showed water stream flow as “normal” in Northern California and “much below normal” in Southern California.
Because of the increase in Northern California, many California residents began speculating that the drought had come to an end. However, a five year severe drought is a lot of damage to make up for.
In March 2016, the California Department of Water Resources released a breaking news update stating that the despite “state water project allocation increase, the drought is not over.”
Stating, “Although February was mostly dry, rain and snow returned in March to boost the state’s two largest reservoirs – Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville – to slightly above their historic levels for the date. Some key reservoirs, however, remain far below expected levels for this time of year.”
The breaking news update continued by stating that although there was an increase in water, there was also an increase in temperatures in 2014 and 2015, which were two of the warmest years in over 121 years. The report also explained how recovering from a severe drought would take much longer than one year, as the conditions have become the way they are over the course of five years.
Provided with this breaking news update was also the 2016 Drought Contingency Plan, which provided in depth explanations for the recent water levels and the distribution of water throughout the remainder of the year.
These reports came after much speculation from the public stating that “drought was over.” Many users took to Twitter in order to express their relief.
Ben Shanerman shared via Twitter, “Is California going to Thank God? Because their drought is over. We heard for the last year how bad it was. Nature took care of it again!”
Shanerman and others are not the only ones making premature assumptions that the drought is over.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Blackhawk, a gated community of 2,027 homes in Danville, California, was going to return to fining their homeowners for any brown lawns.
According to The Mercury News, Community Association Manager Mark Goldberg stated, “We believe that allowing the drought to negatively impact the landscaping at any Blackhawk home does a disservice to property values throughout the community and is a violation of our CC&Rs” in a letter that went out to each resident.
When others began questioning the association, they simply stated that they were not demanding that their homeowners increase their water usage. They were demanding that the homeowners seek alternative options through synthetic grass or drought-tolerant landscaping.
However, many expressed discontentment stating that the Blackhawk homeowners association is premature in their decision. The drought is still very much an issue, and fining residents for not watering their lawn contradicts the emergency conservation water regulations that were updated in February of this year.
In a press release that was given by California Water Boards, Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board stated, “After four years of extreme drought, there is still a need for Californians to keep up their stellar conservative practices. This updated regulation acknowledges that need, while making adjustments in response to feedback from water suppliers and others. If we continue to receive a lot of rain and snow in February and March, we may scale back the conservation requirements further, drop them, or move to another approach.”
In the Mercury News article, Sejal Choksi-Chugh, executive director of the San Francisco Baykeeper, an environmental group stated, “The Blackhawk HOA seems to have missed an opportunity to have a high-profile, well-respected community take a leadership role in water conservation.”
Choski-Chugh was not the only one to express her concern with the matter, as numerous news outlets and California residents have done the same through social media sharing.
“The drought is not over” tweets, and posting links to news articles and websites stating otherwise.
One of the websites providing frequently updated drought information is The National Drought Mitigation Center, which provides maps in which clearly show that Californians should limit their amount of water usage. Much of Northern California is described to be in a severe or extreme drought, and Southern California remains in an exceptional drought.
Overall, it is clear that the water crisis has not ended, despite rumors that have surfaced the Internet. State officials still ask California residents to limit their water usage until conditions improve drastically.