By Matthew Renda
(CN) — Thursday marks the final day of the water year in California, and it was one for the record books — and not just because much of the state saw less than 50% of average rainfall.
“While the water year that ends is our second driest on record, the manifestation of record-high ambient temperatures and dry soil conditions means the conditions in the reservoirs, the rivers and streams are actually much lower,” said Karla Nemeth, the director of the California Department of Water Resources, during a press conference to mark the end of the water year Thursday.
California received about 24 inches of water during the water year that began Oct. 1, 2020, according to the 8-station index. It’s 46% percent of the average, which is about 51.4 inches and is drier than any of the years that produced the last prolonged drought that began roughly in 2011.
The precipitation amount is 5 inches higher than the total achieved in the water year spanning 1976 and 1977, but because temperatures in April of this year were so well above normal, the impact on water availability was markedly worse.
“We had 70% of average snowpack on April 1,” Nemeth said. “We had zero snowpack in about six to eight weeks. That’s never happened before.”
California experienced record high temperatures in that period, which Nemeth said could become increasingly normal due to climate change.
“These temperatures used to be exceptional and they moved into being episodic and now they are probably common,” she said. “We had record low inflows into Shasta reservoir as a result and our combined reservoirs are at combined record lows.”