Oceanographer Says Not So Fast With Declaring Drought Over; Groundwater Recovery Could Take Years

Mar 19, 2019

We’re having one of the best rainfall seasons in years, with drought conditions easing for much of the state.

But one of the nation’s leading oceanographers says there’s much more involved before the impacts of the drought are completely gone, and that it could take years to replenish groundwater supplies.

Former NASA oceanographer Dr. Bill Patzert says while we had the possibility of El Nino conditions going into the rainfall season, which could have magnified rain amounts, it didn’t happen. Patzert says El Nino was "El No-Show".

The oceanographer says what we did get was a bunch of traditional winter storms, with so-called “atmospheric rivers” bringing in subtropical moisture to the coast.

Patzert says what’s good about the way the storms hit was that they were spread out enough that we didn’t have major flooding, or debris flow issues in brush fire burn zones on the Central and South Coasts.

Still, the rainfall numbers are impressive. In Ventura County, Thousand Oaks has had 14.6” of rain, 115% of average for this point in the season. Ojai has had 17.4”, 139% of average,, and Ventura 18.4”, 155% of average for March 18th.

In Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara has had 23” of rain so far, 148% of average for this time in the season. Santa Ynez has had 17.9” of rain, 135% of average, and San Marcos Pass had had an incredible 42.9” of rain. That’s 148% of average.

Patzert says despite the solid rainfall, we need to be conscious of water, and water conservation. The oceanographer says we are going to see the ongoing swings between good rainfall seasons, and drought years become even more pronounced because of climate change.

Patzert says while many reservoirs are fuller than they have been in years, we have a long way to go to replenish our underground water tables. He says that’s a process which takes multiple solid rainfall seasons.

Patzert says with below average rainfall seven out of ten years, water conservation has to become the permanent norm in California.