A series of storms last month has resulted in a marked improvement in California’s drought situation statewide, pulling much of the southern part of the state out of more serious categories.
Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties all saw significant improvements in December, the latest maps from the U.S. Drought Monitor reveal.
Nearly all of Los Angeles and Ventura counties are out of the “extreme” drought category and now experiencing less severe “serious” drought conditions, according to the latest map from Dec. 28.
Meanwhile, much of San Bernardino County, falls in the “serious” category, with the southwestern corner experiencing “moderate” drought.
All of Orange County is in the “moderate” category,” as is most of Riverside County, where just the southwestern area still lingers in “serious” drought conditions.
Though California remains mired in drought, recent storms have made a tremendous dent — with major improvements happening even in the span of just a week, the federal data shows.
At the end of December, the percentage of the state that was in the most serious “exceptional” drought condition fell from about 23% to under 1%. In the “extreme” category, the figure dropped from nearly 80% of the state to almost 34%.
According to the National Weather Service, California has already received more precipitation in the first three months of the state’s water year than all of the 2020-2021 period. The last water year ranked among the driest in Golden State history.
In Los Angeles County, current water year totals already dramatically exceed the one from the previous year, NWS data indicates.
California’s water year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.
California’s snowpack is also in great shape, according to the first survey of the water year, which was conducted last week. It was found to have a snow water content of 160% of normal for this time of the year.
The snowpack is a critical source of water for the state, accounting for about a third of California’s supply once it melts in late spring to summer and fills the reservoirs.
Still, officials are being cautious about December’s rain and snowfall totals, noting that they don’t always translate to wetter months deep into winter — something that needs to continue for California to emerge out of the drought.
“Obviously we are off to a great start,” Sean de Guzman, the manager of the Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting section of the state’s Department of Water Resources, said at a news conference last week. “We still have a long way to go for our wet season. And we need more and more of these storms to keep coming through.”