Our Ongoing Drought Cycle


Due to our dry conditions, droughts are a part of life here. We are either in drought, recovering from drought or preparing for the next drought. And, droughts are getting more extreme. The last drought broke all records. But unlike earthquakes or hurricanes, droughts are a natural disaster we can do something about; we can reduce our use to keep more water underground for when we need it. 

Our Drought Cycle

(1998 - 2019)

Our Setting Is More Sun than Rain

Droughts come from dry conditions and those dry conditions are common in Southern California. We have more sunny days than  rainy ones, which explains why most of us likely have more flip flops than umbrellas. Sometimes, months pass without a drop of rain. In fact, 16 out of the past 20 years have received below average rainfall. More often than not, dry conditions are our reality. Although sunny days are good for the fun in the sun that Southern California offers, these conditions have severe consequences for the Main San Gabriel Groundwater Basin.

Dry Versus Rainy Years

Our Conditions to Care About

The timeline graph below shows us this drought cycle over the past 20 years. Here are a few highlights:


  1. See all that orange? That’s the “dry” years – the ones that had below average rainfall. They dominate the timeline because that’s our normal condition: dry.

  2. Dry periods lead into even drier ones called drought. Drought cycles are showing up more often; there were only seven years between the last two droughts. So, we likely don’t have a lot of time to help the basin recover before dry conditions turn to drought again.

  3. Notice how few blue bars there are? Those are the above-average rain years—just four. Those four years of more rain don't make up for 16 years of low rain. Having only a few rainy years makes it hard for the basin to recover from drought. That's why we all have an important role to take care of these waters so that we can make up for the rain we don’t naturally receive.

  4. The dark blue line across all the years is the level of the basin's waters. In the last two decades, they were at their highest level  before the 2007 drought. Then, dry conditions over multiple years caused these waters to drop by 30%. 

  5. That brings us to today. The last drought from 2014-17 was record-breaking. If a drought started today, these waters would be lower than they were before the last two droughts began. That's not a position any of us want to be in, especially as droughts become more frequent and severe.

Basin Levels and Drought Conditions Since 2000

Basin Levels and Drought Conditions Since 2000