Busting a drought … and ruining a vacation

California’s record rains helped everyone in the Colorado River Basin, with the exception of the story’s author.

February 1, 2017 | By: Steve Snyder

Albert Hammon once sang, “It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya? It pours, man, it pours.”

Recent record rainfall is finally putting a dent in the California drought, flooding streets in Los Angeles in the process.
Recent record rainfall is finally putting a dent in the California drought, flooding streets in Los Angeles in the process.

Don’t I know it!

I just returned from a four-day trip to Los Angeles. Let’s just say I should have skipped renting a convertible and gone straight for the submarine. Record rains drenched the area while I was there, continuing a soggy, winter trend in the sunshine state.

But I was happy to take one for the team, so to speak.

Previously, I’ve written stories about how California’s water supply is connected to Colorado and other Western states through the Colorado River Compact. And a decade-long drought in California has been causing a crisis throughout the Colorado River Basin. If there isn’t enough water in the Colorado River to satisfy the seven states that rely on it, every state has to cut back its river usage. And we care because Denver Water gets half of its supply from the Colorado River.

But finally, there might be a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t see it through the rain clouds. For the past several months, a La Nina weather pattern has delivered persistent precipitation throughout California, reversing what had been one of the driest periods in the state’s history. While parts of California are still experiencing drought conditions, it’s nothing like even one year ago.

Colorado is doing its part to bust the drought as well. Recent measurements in the Colorado River Basin Headwaters show the snowpack at a whopping 157 percent of normal. (A quick tutorial on the importance of snowpack is available here.)

Of course, we aren’t done with winter yet. As we’ve seen in the Western United States, Mother Nature can turn off the faucet as quickly as she turns it on. But at least it appears that California finally realizes what we in Colorado have known for years: We are truly never out of drought.

So being a loyal employee of a major Western water utility, I will squeeze the water from my socks and chalk up my lost weekend in Cali to the greater good.

But I might ask for a credit on that convertible.

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