California’s ‘extreme drought’ almost eliminated due to excessive rainfall


A silver lining to the massive storms that hit the state

Since the end of December, California has been hit by seven storms. And more are likely to hit the state this week. The weather has caused flooding, sinkholes and has closed off highways. But there might be a very small silver lining to the extreme weather. It might put an end to the ‘extreme drought’ status that California acquired in the last three years. 

Extreme drought

California has been dealing with drought for a long time. And this drought limits people’s access to water. Including save and healthy drinking water. In 2021, over 300,000 Californians received help from the state because of restricted access to drinking water. Residents of the states have had to cut back on their water use to make sure there is enough water to go around. And according to California’s drought monitor, the percentage of extreme drought in the state was 28.33% at the end of December 2022. This means that over twenty eight percent of the state experienced extreme drought conditions. Most of the state generally falls within the ‘severe drought’ level, the level of drought that comes before ‘extreme drought’. But all of that has changed with the current weather conditions.

Good news

Even though the storms are causing a lot of problems for millions of people, the excessive rain- and snowfall might be beneficial for California’s drought levels. Since the storms started, the drought levels have decreased. According to the drought monitor, the state currently has a .32% level of ‘extreme drought’, meaning that California’s extreme drought status could finally be eliminated. According to ABC News, the Sierra Nevada Mountains have hit a record when it comes to snow. The area has had more snow at the start of the season than it usually gets in a whole year. And especially snow is important for ending the drought in California.


Nate Stephenson, scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center, told ABC News that the benefit to snow, is that it melts slowly. It is absorbed by the ground and the scientist says that snow is a good contributor to the “water bank”, or water storage, that will help the state fight drought in the spring and summer. Currently, California is dealing with 226% of the snowpack it usually sees this time of year. Snowfall generally reaches it’s peak in April and even those levels have currently been exceeded.

Unfortunately, the extreme weather has mostly hit west of the Sierra Nevada mountains, meaning that the areas with the largest water reservoirs in California have not recovered yet. The reservoir levels remain lower than their typical average. But CNN writes that Michael Anderson, climatologist with the state’s Department of Water Resources, states that the water reservoirs are “off historic lows”. Which might help the state this coming spring and summer.

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Source: ABC News, CNN, AP News, The Guardian, US Drought Monitor, Water Education Foundation | Image: Unsplash, Steve Harvey