Currently — January 25th, 2023

What you need to know, currently.

California remains in a drought despite weeks of historic—and devastating—flooding and rainfall.

Before this series of storms, the state didn’t get a drop of this winter. These prolonged dry conditions led California into a mega-drought, leaving its lakes and reservoirs at critically low levels. Now, most of the state’s reservoirs are holding more water than usual for this time of year but still, groundwater isn’t replenished just yet. When it comes to water use, the state’s debt is far too deep.

“California had all of this water stored in its groundwater aquifers. And as the drought dragged on over the last decade…taking withdrawals out of that groundwater bag that they had,” Geeta Persad, an assistant professor in the University of Texas Department of Geological Sciences, told KXAN News. “Over time, they’ve basically gotten themselves into the red with their groundwater aquifers. Now, that other form of natural storage that they had, is really, really drawn down, so it’s gonna take a long time for that to rebuild.”

She continued: “The storms that we’re seeing right now, most of that water is flowing out into the ocean, rather than going into the aquifers because of how extreme that rainfall is.”

In other words, the rainfall was just not enough to get California out of the red.

And now that the shock of the January storms has surpassed, Los Angeles County must clean its reservoirs, particularly the five along the south-facing San Gabriel Mountain slope. They’re filled with mud and debris and pose a flood risk to the communities below. Another storm could release more dirt and trees, triggering dirty floodwaters into the cities of Arcadia, Sierra Madre, Pacoima, Sun Valley, and Sunland.

The National Weather Service’s total precipitation amounts from the three-week-long series of storms are listed below:

  • 36.18” Santa Cruz
  • 34.80” Cazadero
  • 31.34” Felton
  • 30.51” Boulder Creek
  • 28.51” Guerneville
  • 27.97” Los Gatos
  • 26.95” Kentfield
  • 26.67” Healdsburg
  • 18.33” Oakland
  • 17.64” Downtown San Francisco
  • 15.28” SFO International Airport

—Aarohi Sheth

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