Heavy snowfall and rain lashed California last week, with reports of severe flooding in parts of the state. For agricultural observers, the resulting replenishment of snowpack and reservoir levels led to positive sentiment amid the ongoing drought conditions in the state.
However, further precipitation will be needed to top up groundwater supplies, and several growers stated that despite the increased water availability, it is too early to speculate on the impact for this season’s crops. One almond grower said, “if we have more water, yields will be higher, but not as much as some are likely expecting. The trees have been under drought stress for several years, and in my opinion even if conditions were perfect, it would take at least one season for them to return to full productivity.”
Looking at snowpack, across the entire state snow water content was sitting at 216% of the historical average (1970-2021) for this point in the season, on 11th January. Reservoir levels increased state-wide, but remained below average with reservoirs at 85% of historical levels, because a significant proportion of the precipitation was unable to be captured and was lost as runoff and floodwater.
While the majority of the state remains in drought conditions, the severity has decreased significantly from two weeks prior. As of 10th January 2023, 46% of California was classed as in severe drought or worse, with less than a percentage point suffering under extreme-exceptional drought conditions. This compares to readings on 27th December 2022, when 36% of the state was rated as in extreme-exceptional drought conditions and 81% was rated as in severe drought or worse.
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