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We Have To Be Ready For Challenges


Just like it takes time and work to help a forest recover from a fire, it takes time and our collective work for our water basin to recover from a drought. When a fire is put out, the recovery begins. When a drought ends, our drought recovery phase of the drought cycle begins. There are two primary challenges to this recovery for our groundwater and its basin: more frequent, widespread and extreme droughts and our typically dry conditions. A third new challenge comes from the other extreme — getting too much rain and snowmelt — stormwater — at once.

Challenge #1: Droughts Are More Frequent, Widespread and Extreme

Droughts are now so frequent in Southern California that they are more an expected part of life  than a natural phenomenon. In the 20th century, our state had three droughts, putting it in declared droughts roughly 15% of the time. Since 2000, our state has already had four droughts, putting it in declared droughts 54% of the time.

These 21st century droughts are also more extreme and widespread. Not only does our water basin have less time to recover from the last drought and prepare for the next, it also may not be able to import water when it needs it due to far-reaching drought conditions on those supplies as well.

Comparison of Drought Frequency

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Challenge #2: Our Typically Dry Conditions

To recover from one drought and prepare for the next, our groundwater basin needs rain and snowmelt and it also needs time for those water sources to seep deep down underground. However, most years are drier than average, putting us at risk of drawing more water out of our groundwater basin than it naturally receives.

Dry vs. Rainy Years (2012–2023)

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Challenge #3: Getting Too Much Stormwater at Once

In a dry environment, stormwater in the form of rain and snowmelt are welcome sources of water. However, just like dry times are drier, the times that are wet are becoming even more so. Our goal always is to capture and store stormwater—when it's available. But if there’s too much of this water all at once, it could be more than our stormwater systems can capture. That’s when these important sources of local water are at risk of causing flooding and being lost as "runoff," never to be part of our groundwater supply.

Our Water: Through The Drought Cycle

Since 2000, the dark blue line below shows how our groundwater levels have responded to
the drought cycle: in drought (dark orange), recovering from drought (blue: our few years with
above-average rainfall) and preparing for drought (orange: our years with below-average rainfall
that lead into drought). Our groundwater has little time to recover from one drought before the next one begins. We’re in a drought cycle; it’s more than a drought to take care of.

Basin Levels and Drought Conditions Since 2000

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