Ken Clark

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California Drought: Time to Act?

January 13, 2014; 12:39 PM ET

I have been chronicling the severity of the California drought for some time now. In the process, I have also said that this could have a dramatic economical impact on everyone in the state and beyond. Currently, this is a disaster in the making for California, but the drought tentacles really reach out far beyond the state's borders.

Let's review a couple of things first. 2013 was the driest calendar year on record... period. This so-called rainy season has continued the trend that started early last year. Since the beginning of October, the central part of the state, including all the huge agricultural areas, has had only 5 to 15 percent of normal precipitation. Southern California is not much better, averaging 10 to 20 percent of normal. Here is a graphic showing the percent of normal precipitation over the Southwest, including California, since Nov. 14.

The Sierra snow situation is extremely bad. I have seen many media outlets saying the water in the snow is 20 percent of normal for the time of year. In reality it is worse than that -- 16 percent -- which is 20 percent less than those media reports. Even worse is that the current water in the snowpack is just 3 to 10 percent of April 1 normals. Reservoirs in the central and northern part of the state are well below what is average for the time of year.

The above are facts, ugly as they are. The latest computer guidance shows no rain for at least the next week and for the most part through Jan. 28. I would say it is a lock that the next seven days will be rain-free. While there is no guarantee after that, the chances of anything even remotely important right now look very small.

The remainder of my blog is my opinions only.

There have been 13 recorded droughts since 1987, three statewide. However, this drought could rival some of the worst ever recorded, including 1976-1977 when Governor Jerry Brown was governor the first time. According to numerous sources, federal and state water managers are projecting they may release only 5 percent of what they normally sell this coming season. If this were to happen, this could have tremendous impact on 25 million Californians and over 1 million acres of farming. Last year, the allocation was 35 percent, and this was bad enough for most farmers. The last time it was projected to be as low as 5 percent was back in 2010, but the agency ended up raising the allocation to 50 percent. By year, here is the State Water Projected allocations going back 1999.

The projected allocation would mean that farmers would have to leave many more fields fallow and also sell of livestock.

Governor Brown met last Thursday with his drought task force to determine if an emergency declaration is necessary but quipped, "Governors can't make it rain." No, they cannot make it rain, but they can actually be proactive and not reactive to a situation. This is especially to a situation so critical to millions of Californians and to the state's vital farming industry. Some counties have already seen the writing on the wall. Mendocino County is the latest of several counties imposing mandatory water reductions. It is time for the governor to step up and press for a statewide water reduction plan that would include water restrictions. If we get a miracle some time over the next couple of months, fine, then the restrictions could be lessened or lifted. However, waiting too long will only make things worse. You can't replace water once it is used. Personally, I do not see the miracle coming this year, at least to the degree that would be necessary to bring relief from the severity of this drought. The hole is too deep to fill. We have seen all too often when the failure to be proactive eventually costs us. Act now Governor Brown and the state legislature. Don't wait until dust is coming out of my faucet.

Please note: I am now on Twitter. You can follow me at @Kenwxman

If you follow me, please know that I do not just tweet about the weather. In fact, I will post a lot more about sports teams I follow, news of the day, and any and all subjects. I want everyone to be aware of this up front. All views are mine and mine only.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


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Ken Clark
Ken Clark's Western U.S. weather blog tackles daily weather events with commentary from one of the most experienced and trusted Western U.S. weather experts.