Rain from El Niño less than expected, CA still suffering from a drought

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Photo: http://www.weatherwest.com

At the beginning of the rainy season this past winter, the hopes of a strong El Niño to bring California out of its drought were soaring. Sadly, the El Nino didn’t live up to the expectations.

Many didn’t take into account the erosion, flooding and other natural disaster. Some disasters include the massive storm in January that caused crop damage, the drowning of two UCSC students, and the presumed deaths of two base jumpers, Mary Katherine ‘Katie’ Connell, and a man who is believed to be from Finland. El Nino did not bring California out of the drought “While it is good news that drought improvement is predicted for California, one season of above-average rain and snow is unlikely to remove four years of drought,” says Mike Halpert, Deputy Director of NOAA’s (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Climate Prediction Center. Halpert says, “California would need close to twice its normal rainfall to get out of a drought and that’s unlikely.”

While the rain has affected the environment, it’s not nearly enough to get California out of the drought. However, with the reservoirs holding more water, the drought may finally be coming closer to an end.

With this small step towards a more hydrated state, California has been rejoicing. Moderate drought levels have been reduced from 97% to 93% and severe drought from 83% to 73%, a 10% improvement. The improvements were mostly centered in Northern California, leaving the central and southern areas in more severe drought environments.

Water saving continues to occur in Santa Cruz County right now, as conservation efforts are still underway. The water rules are very strict, with allotted amounts of water, fines for those who go over the limit, and ‘Water School’ for the offenders. Santa Cruz has these rules because it’s isolated. Because of the Santa Cruz Mountains, it’s one of the few counties in the state that doesn’t import its water. A long history of environmental activism contributes to the strict rules, as the community is very aware of the environment. The county has also done very little to expand its supply of water, gaining most of it from the San Lorenzo River. The average water use is 96 gallons per capita, which is half of the state’s average of 196.

Santa Cruz County is also one of the only counties to enforce fines or penalties for water usage. SLV Water District operated three water systems: the North System, South System and Felton System. The North System goes from Ben Lomond to the north of Boulder Creek, getting its water from small creeks in the winter and spring, switching to mostly groundwater in the late summer and fall. The Felton System gets all of its water from streams, mostly Fall Creek.    The South System, which includes part of Scotts Valley around the Lockwood Lane and Manana Woods neighborhoods, receives year-round groundwater.

There are many ways to save water on a daily basis, including, but not limited to, turning off faucets, putting extra ice in houseplants, not the sink, and limiting shower lengths

California is still in a drought, so residents must try to contribute to water conservation efforts in order to sustain the environment.

By Eilidh MacDonald

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