Map: Look at the Drought Difference in California From One Year Ago

Storms continued to pile on snowpack and fill California’s water reservoirs over the past week, pulling even more of the state out of drought.

Last week, a small sliver of extreme Northern California was the only part of the state in moderate drought. That area and a swath of California near its border with Mexico were listed as abnormally dry, a less severe condition than drought, in this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor report.

That means California is free of drought for the first time since Dec. 20, 2011, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center.

This map shows drought conditions at the start of the water year, the wettest months of the year, in September 2018 in California.
Photo credit: US Drought Monitor

One year ago, nearly 50 percent of California was in moderate to extreme drought. Part of Ventura County and a northwest Los Angeles County were in the extreme drought category — the second-most severe category in the drought monitor’s ranking system — at this time last year. 

Just three months ago, 75 percent of the state was in moderate to extreme drought.

Even the Salton Sea area, a southeastern California region the has consistently been among the driest parts of the state, returned to what the Monitor described as normal conditions.

“The rest of the region in Southern California is still abnormally dry due to very dry previous years,” the weekly report noted. “Reservoirs in San Diego County are only at 65 percent capacity.”

California Snowpack Through the YearsCalifornia Snowpack Through the Years

Big Bear Lake in the mountains east of Los Angeles was down 18 feet in early March, but it’s expected to continue to rise, according to the report.

Also in Southern California, Lake Piru in Ventura County is at 74 precent capacity, Cachuma Reservoir in Santa Barbara County is at 73 percent capacity, and Lake Casitas near Ventura is up to 43 percent capacity.

One of the most encouraging signs is the giant pillow of snow covering the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A manual survey of snowpack at Phillips Station late last month indicated a snow depth of 113 inches and a snow water equivalent of 43.5 inches.

The Otherworldly Landscape of California's Salton Sea in PhotosThe Otherworldly Landscape of California’s Salton Sea in Photos

That’s double what was recored a month before at the same location.

Statewide, the Sierra snowpack was at 153 percent of average for the late February survey. The snowpack is a critical part of California’s water supply because that snow melts in spring and runs off into the state’s water system.

How Water Gets From the Mountains to the Rest of CaliforniaHow Water Gets From the Mountains to the Rest of California

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