California’s wet and snowy winter is paying off.
Data released by the U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday shows roughly half of the Golden State is no longer experiencing drought conditions. But water managers say it’s not time to celebrate yet.
The latest survey shows the entire coastline of California, including the major metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego are either “abnormally dry” or have no drought classification at all.
Moderate or severe drought conditions, however, still persist in Southern California’s desert regions, including sections of L.A. and San Diego counties, and the northeastern area of the state.
Just three months ago virtually all of California was in a drought, including extreme and exceptional levels. Water agencies serving millions of people, agriculture and industry were told to expect only a fraction of requested allocations.
The turnabout began with a series of atmospheric rivers that pounded the state from late December through mid-January, building a huge Sierra Nevada snowpack. Storms in late February, which have paralyzed some mountain communities, increased the snowpack even more.
“The rain has improved California soil moisture and streamflow levels, while the snow has increased mountain snowpack to much above-normal levels,” the U.S. Drought Monitor said.
State water managers are encouraged, but caution against declaring the drought over.
“It’s great to see improved conditions … While recent rain and snow has been promising, it will take more than a single wet year for California to fully recover from the last three years – the driest ever recorded in state history,” said Karla Nemeth, Director of California’s Department of Water Resources. DWR also points out that years of drought have depleted the state’s 500-plus groundwater basins, impacting many rural communities.
Looking ahead, state water managers say reservoirs used for flood control and water storage should start to fill up as early as mid-March when spring runoff begins.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that most, but not all of Los Angeles and San Diego counties are clear of drought conditions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.