Perspective on the Californian Drought

The fabled El Niño is upon us, and it has been raining in California lately. A LOT. To illustrate, here is a graph of the water levels (as provided by the USGS) at the reservoir in Bridgeport, CA over the past year. (I chose the Bridgeport Reservoir because I used to live near there, and I have a personal connection to the place, but the patterns I’m illustrating are true of many reservoirs across the western US.)

1 Year Reservoir Storage

However, I want to remind people not to be too quick to celebrate. If we consider a broader perspective and look what how much water has been in the reservoir over the past twenty years, what we see is not so encouraging. Water levels are still near the lowest recorded during that period.

20 Year Reservoir Levels

California has done an amazing job changing their water usage during the drought. Bay Area residents successfully reduced their water consumption by over 20% since the beginning of the drought, and statewide there has been a 13% reduction in residential water use. However, we need to continue being mindful of water resources. The bountiful rains of El Niño do not mean our problems are solved yet.