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Media Contacts:

Ted Thomas
Chief, Media & Public Information
Work: (916) 653-9712
Cell: (916) 798-1701

Elizabeth Scott
Information Officer
Work: (916) 653-9515
Cell: (916) 712-3904

Drought Information

Water years 2012 and 2013 were dry statewide, especially in parts of the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. Water year 2014, which began on October 1st, continues this trend. Precipitation in some areas of the state is tracking at about the driest year of record. Statewide reservoir storage going into our wet season was about 75 percent of average for this time of year, and impacts of two dry years on statewide groundwater levels are also evident. On average, about half of California’s statewide precipitation occurs in December, January, and February, with only a handful of large winter storms accounting for the difference between a wet year and a dry one. DWR’s late November experimental seasonal forecast for the water year sees mostly dry conditions for the state. It is still too early, however, to call this water year, and Mother Nature may surprise us. About half of the years with similarly dry first quarters in the historical record of northern Sierra precipitation, for example, caught up to average by the end of the season. However, a normal precipitation year would not be enough to overcome low soil moisture and water storage conditions; many water users would need a wet year to be made whole.

For background on droughts in California and answers to frequently asked questions, see the column below.

drought info graphic
drought info graphic

Processed satellite imagery of a portion of the San Joaquin Valley showing the difference in the NDVI between August 2011 (wet year) and August 2013 (dry year). The Tulare Lake bed is just right of center at the bottom of the image. NDVI is the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, a measure of vegetation conditions that can also be used to show drought or water shortage impacts in irrigated areas. Image courtesy of Lee Johnson, CSU Monterey Bay.


Current Water Conditions