California's drought conditions have been dire over the past several years, but weather forecasters have been predicting an unusually wet winter for 2015. Yes, it does make us want to jump for joy...but not so fast. This does not mean we should stop our water conservation efforts. It almost makes us want to keep this predicted wet weather a secret because some make take this as a green light to use their lawn sprinklers twice a day...and letting our water-conservation guard down is the last thing we should do.
According to California state climatologist Michael Anderson, "California cannot count on potential El Nino conditions to halt or reverse drought conditions. Historical weather data shows us that at best, there is a 50/50 chance of having a wetter winter. Unfortunately, due to shifting climate patterns, we cannot be even that sure." Looking at El Nino winters in the past, three actually resulted in drier years than normal. There is no guarantee that we will get the rain we need.
Interestingly, it's not actually the rainfall that is likely to be the major saving factor when it comes to California's drought, but rather snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which produces a third of the state's water sources as it melts. With the warmer winter temperatures that have been trending in recent years, any extra precipitation that may come this year may fall only as rain and although that will help somewhat, it will not help enough. The snow that is necessary in the Sierra Nevadas is a key factor and, without that, California is still in trouble.
As the California Water Board is in the process of implementing mandatory water conservation standards, there is fear that the "hype" surrounding this projected El Nino could actually derail a lot of these efforts. California residents are strongly urged to continue (or start!) conserving water, disregarding any possibility of a wet winter because frankly, it's just not even close to a sure-thing. So keep taking those shorter showers; converting your green, grassy lawns to drought-resistant landscapes; and being mindful about your water usage with every choice you make. California would have to DOUBLE its typical rainfall and snowfall this winter to make up for the drought and the likelihood of that happening is sadly slim.