An extremely rainy winter has left California’s reservoirs looking healthier than they have for years, as near-record precipitation significantly reduced a prolonged drought.
A series of atmospheric rivers–high-altitude ribbons of moisture–flow into the western United States, drenching landscapes dried up by years of mediocre rain.
The state’s 40 million residents have been chafed by repeated warnings to save water, with restrictions on garden irrigation leaving lawns dead or dying.
The vegetation dried up, and the hillsides became a barren brown, ripe for wildfires.
The tanks were holding a fraction of their capacity, with the shores receding to reveal dust, rocks, and the remains of sunken boats.
But then the winter of 2022-2023 kicked in, and trillions of gallons of water fell from the sky.
Rivers and streams that have slowed greatly or disappeared altogether have risen.
Lake Tulare, in the Central Valley, which dried up 80 years ago, is starting to reappear as all that rain has had to find a place to go.
The mountains are buried under hundreds of inches (several meters) of snow, and ski resorts in the state are starting to talk about a bumper season that could last into July.
Official statistics from the U.S. Drought Watch released last week show that about two-thirds of California is completely out of the drought.
Less than 10 percent of the state is technically still in a drought, and the rest is classified as “abnormally dry.”
A year ago the entire state was in a drought.
The California Department of Water Resources says major reservoirs are above their average capacity.
Lake Oroville, one of the state’s most important bodies of water, is now 88 percent full, storing nearly twice as much water as it did a year ago.
AFP images show that the once shrunken reservoir appears much closer to its original shoreline.
Pictures taken less than two years ago show a marked discrepancy – in September 2021, a tiny stream flows through a valley, but this year the valley is filled with water.
A boat ramp that once sat pointlessly high above the waterline is seen in a photo from Sunday, spurting water halfway up.
The Enterprise Bridge now spans a body of water, its bases earlier standing starkly in the dusty bank, with a small stream running beneath it.
Wet winters are nothing new in California, but scientists say human-caused climate change is exacerbating so-called “weather wounds” that see periods of sweltering heat and dryness give way to wetter months.
And water managers warn that while there is plenty of humidity right now, Californians can’t afford to waste water.
Adil Hajajalil of the Metropolitan Water District that serves Southern California told Spectrum News 1 that people should still maintain their supplies.
“We need to save and build savings… so when we have another dry year and hot days and dry days, we can respond,” he said.
© 2023 AFP
the quote: Water, Water Everywhere: Wet Winter Boosts California Reservoirs (2023, April 18) Retrieved April 18, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-winter-boosts-california-reservoirs.html
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