After five years of what seemed like unending drought, California finally had a wet winter that has allowed Gov. Jerry Brown to lift the emergency orders. Brown placed a series of emergency measures across the state in 2014 and 2015 in an effort to conserve water. These were desperate measures that were applied when the end of the drought could not be seen to save the water supply for 39 million people.
On Friday, June 9, Brown declared that “the drought emergency is over, and the water restrictions have been lifted.” During this time, only four percent of the state had not experienced the abnormally dry conditions.
The melting snowpack from the mountains typically supplies the majority of the water supply and that plunged in 2014. This left the two largest water reservoirs, Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville, at only half capacity.
The rural areas tried to save water by extending the wells that were already dug, but this led to serious ground sinking issues. Thousands of people had no tap water, and acres upon acres of trees in the National Forests dried up and died. Scientists are now investigating the impact that the drought effect had on the ecosystem at the higher elevations.
Those in the urban areas experienced serious restraints also and were required to cut water usage 25 percent. Thousands of people were fined for washing cars and watering lawns during the past five years.
Even though the lawns turned brown and local restaurants stopped automatically serving water by the end of 2015, the urban areas accomplished the task of reducing their water usage.
Maybe the drought lasted just long enough to wake up the west coast residents to the excess that they had been using. The 2016-2017 season has been recorded as the second wettest season on record. The Oroville Dam is filled to capacity and overflowing, and the snowpack is 161 percent over normal, reports Bill Patzert, NASA climatologist.