Come Again Another Day … Please

A wet month for San Diego may not be enough

Despite more rain on Monday, the threat of water restrictions  around the county is almost inevitable.

If  February ended today, nearly two weeks early, we'd still be more than a half inch above our normal rainfall for the entire month.  The past 16 days have been the exact opposite of  how the year started.  In fact, while January brought just .08 inches of rain to Lindbergh Field, February has seen close to 40 times that much in the first two weeks.  For the rainfall year, which is measured July to July, we are more than 2 inches ahead of where we should be.  It's been a phenomenal February, with still hope for the Miracle March.  This is exactly the alliteration we'd hoped for, right?

So, why do all those TV weather people keep saying, "We really need the rain"?  Why do we keep hearing the word "drought"?  Why is every farmer in the state still talking about conservation and water restrictions?  Shouldn't they be celebrating?

No, because it's probably not enough. 

On Jan. 29, California's Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow said, "We may be at the start of the worst California drought in modern history."  While Snow may not have forecasted his namesake to be a household noun in Southern California this month, I doubt his original prediction would change much.

The reason is that most of these storms have missed the Sierra, one of the state's most important water resources.  Also, the Rocky Mountains have had a below-average year for snow so far, which, come spring runoff, may leave the Colorado River Basin below normal once again.

The past week's storms dumped several feet of snow on the Sierra, but going into the weekend, Northern California's snow pack was 52 percent of normal.  This one week is unlikely to fill in the hole left by a very dry January and a drier-than-average 2007-08 season.  Last June, the governor declared a statewide drought for the first time since 1991. 

Farmers and growers all over California are facing possible rate increases and are being asked to cut back on usage.  Avocado growers in San Diego County have already said 2009 will be one of the smallest harvests ever. They partially blame the uncertainty of having enough water.

The city of San Diego accounts for about one-third of all the water used in the county.  In January, an emergency conservation plan went into effect which could impose fines and restrictions on people who use too much.

So, if you were fortunate enough to have the President's Day holiday off but found yourself stuck inside, cursing the rain and longing for the 80 degree days of January, remember the future.  Remember, the rain will go away, but words like "drought" and "conservation" will come another day, too, and then another.  The water debate may be just starting to boil.  At the very least, it's a conversation that will become much more mainstream over the next few months, even if they are phenomenal or miraculous in the rain department.

So, just don't speculate on a super summer .. .at least not yet.

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