Droughts Are More Frequent
Droughts have always been a part of life in Southern California, but now they're more frequent, making them more of an expectation than a natural phenomenon. Here's a comparison. In the last century there were three droughts that put the state in drought conditions roughly 15% of the time, and since 2000 we've already had another four, putting the state in drought conditions nearly 50% of the time. These current droughts are also more extreme in addition to more frequent. The result is our water basin has less time to recover in between them.
For Groundwater, Drought Recovery Takes Time
Even when a drought ends, it doesn’t mean that our water basin has recovered. The impact of a drought lasts longer than the drought itself. To recover, our water basin needs rain and snowmelt to seep deep down underground, which takes time and wet conditions; however our typically dry conditions make that a challenge. It can take years for our basin to recover from a one-year drought. Even when a drought is declared over, we must continue to take action together to help the basin recover and prepare for the next drought.
Dry Versus Rainy Years
Visualizing our Recent Droughts
The timeline graph below shows us this drought cycle over the past 20 years. Here are a few highlights:
Orange columns: The past two decades have been overwhelmingly dry. Extended periods with lower than average rainfall create drought conditions, and make it more difficult for our groundwater basin to accumulate water.
Blue columns: When rain does come, it’s been sporadic. Although rainy years help our basin, the inconsistent way that they happen make it difficult to recover from, and prepare for, drought.
Red columns: Droughts have become increasingly more common over the past 21 years, making our actions together all the more important. We might not be able to perfectly forecast future rain or drought years, but we CAN work on consistently being more water-wise. These habits help our basin every year, regardless of whether it’s rainy, dry or a drought.
The dark blue line shows the basin’s water level across the years. The water level was highest before the 2007 drought.
Since then, dry conditions over multiple years have caused the water level to drop by 30%.
Basin Levels and Drought Conditions Since 2000