Drought Is Over in San Diego County, Water Authority Says

The San Diego County Water Authority confirmed Thursday that drought conditions no longer exist within the county. NBC 7's Steven Luke has more on what that means going forward. (Published Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017)

The drought is over in San Diego County, the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) declared Thursday, following a series of heavy rainfall and powerful storms which left inches upon inches of water in the County.

This winter, heavy and relentless rainfall across California - and in San Diego County - significantly improved drought conditions, according to the Water Authority.

Then and Now: Dramatic Photos of CA's Drought and Recovery

The announcement means San Diego County has enough water supply to last at least three years, according to Dana Friehauf at the SDCWA. The Board of Directors, she said, looks at drought in terms of water supply and availability.

Almost all of California is out of the most severe drought category, with the exception of one small swath northwest of Los Angeles. Only 2 percent of the state is under "exceptional drought," according to the weekly Drought Monitor report.

The weekly Drought Monitor still lists San Diego County in moderate to severe drought.

After a long drought, Lake Hodges is finally starting to look like a lake again. Not all of San Diego’s water reservoirs rose this past week, but the downpour of rain helped replenish local sources. NBC 7’s Steven Luke explains all the different factors that influence our water levels. (Published Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017)

However, Friehauf said, the Monitor does not take into account water supply. The SDCWA made the decision to declare San Diego drought-free after an in-depth examination of the water supply - from rainfall, seawater desalination, stored, and more - and an analysis of water usage, among other factors.

There is still more work to do in the long term, Friehauf said, but in the short term, San Diego has an adequate water supply and the County is not experiencing shortages.

Declaring California as a whole to be past its official three-year drought emergency will be up to Gov. Jerry Brown, who will probably wait until the end of the winter rain and snow season to make that decision.

The Water Authority's Board of Directors' announcement also includes a call for Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Water Resources Control Board to rescind the statewide emergency water-use regulations. Current regulations are set to expire on Feb. 28, though the State Board will decide whether to extend the regulations on Feb. 8.

Three years ago, Governor Jerry Brown declared California in a state of emergency as we faced water shortfalls in what was the driest year on record. But things have been slowly improving. We've seen a lot of storms this season, but is California's drought over? NBC 7 Meteorologist, Jodi Kodesh and Mike Lee with the San Diego County Water Authority stop by Politically Speaking to discuss. (Published Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017)

“Telling the public to continue extraordinary, emergency conservation measures when the drought emergency no longer exists undermines the credibility of state and local water agencies and erodes the effectiveness of communications during actual water supply emergencies,” said Mark Muir, chair of the Water Authority’s Board, in a statement. “The state should focus its 2017 efforts on communities that actually need help meeting water quality standards and water demands. We will continue to promote water-use efficiency in the San Diego County no matter the weather.”

This winter season, San Diego has exceeded average rainfall totals, according to the Water Authority. As of Jan. 23, San Diego's rainfall measurement station at Lindbergh Field measured 172 percent of average rainfall this season. The season starts Oct. 1 and last until the Spring.

At the Ramona Airport measuring station, 209 percent of the annual average seasonal rainfall was recorded.

Snowpack levels in the upper basin of the Colorado River, an important source of water for Southern California, measured 161 percent of their annual, seasonal average.

Steady snowfall doubled the vital snowpack in the Sierra Nevada in little more than a week. The snow melts in spring and runs off into the state's largest reservoirs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.