A new snowpack report from the Sierra Nevada’s this week brought grim news regarding the state of California’s largest source of water reserves, stoking fears that a resurgence of the drought might be right around the corner. As of January 30th, the Sierra Nevada snowpack was only at 30% of normal, a number reminiscent of the depths of the drought and the drastic methods that came as a result of mounting water shortages. And while many weather scientists are not ringing the alarm bells just yet, the dismal snow levels are a reminder that no matter how much rain we received last year California is teetering on the brink of another drought.
The difference between this year and last year is startling. A spokesman from the Department of Water Resources stated that at this time last year the snowpack was at 182% of normal, with more snow in the forecast and plenty of rain to fill the state’s reservoirs. This year however, warm temperatures and a stubborn ridge of high pressure – dubbed the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge – have combined to keep wet weather systems from California during key precipitation months. A similar ridge sitting off the coast of California was one of the main drivers of the drought from 2012 to 2017, and as long as it remains in place the likelihood of significant precipitation is slim.
It is important to remember however that a key factor for the upcoming year is that while the snowpack is far below average, the state’s reservoirs are for the most part are still quite full from last year’s rains. Most of the reservoirs are at or above average capacity for the time of year, and while the lack of snow means they will not see much recharge during the hot summer months they are still in much better shape than in previous years of drought. The state would be in even better shape if an estimated 50 million acre feet of water had not been allowed to flow into the Pacific Ocean last year. California’s failure to address regional dams and storage issue will continue to haunt the state going forward in water issues. Climatologists have also said that while the first two weeks of February are forecast to remain very dry, there is still hope for some significant snow and rainfall at the end of the month and through March. While there is no guarantee for a “Miracle March,” it is not uncommon to have a snowy march during La Nina years.
All of this serves as a stark reminder that even when rain is falling in California, nothing about our water outlook is certain. One bad year can snowball into a cascade of new rules, restrictions, and laws, all of which have the capacity to damage the pool and spa industry greatly. Reactionary laws crafted during times of drought, especially those limiting water for pools, spas, and other recreational uses, can last for years or decades to come, as evidenced by the Water Model Efficient Landscape Ordinance that is currently the greatest threat that the industry faces. The California Pool and Spa Association is working on every front to ensure the long-term success of the industry by keeping pools open and keeping you in business. The support of our members is crucial to this work, and to the health of the industry as a whole.