Do all the rains brought about by El Nino end California’s historical drought? The answer is No. While the rains definitely helped ease the drought, they did not end it. As you can see from the graph below, statewide snowpack stood at way lower than average from 2012-2015; in 2015, that level went down to a really low 5%. In Spring 2016, while the rains brought by El Nino helped put the level back to 85%, one season of rain fall simply is not enough to offset the deficits accumulated from 4 years of drought. During the past 4 years, groundwater levels dropped to historical lows; in parts of the state it was as low as 100 feet below previous historical lows. It will take much more than what we receive so far to recover the storage.
We still need to conserve water
Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in 2014; in 2015, he made it mandatory that statewide urban water use be reduced by 25% starting June. Earlier this year, California Water Board extended the emergency and the restriction on urban water use till Oct 2016. It is clear: We still need to conserve water, and conserve by 25%.
In the 9 months from June 2015 to Feb 2016 when the original 25% reduction mandate was effective, statewide California residents conserved water by 23.9%, just shy from the 25% target. The data means collectively we have done a pretty good job, but we need to continue the effort, and we can still improve.
Ways to conserve water
One of the most effective ways to conserve water is to convert a traditional lawn to a water efficient garden. Other ways include using a high efficiency toilet, shortening bath time to 5 minutes or less, collecting and using rain water, etc.