An El Niño Post Mortem

When it comes to assessing El Niño 2016, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that reports from the Sierra suggest that, overall, California snowpack reached about 87 percent of the average. This means Northern California got close to the amount of water it normally receives, which helps replenish the past few lean years. The Eastern Sierra, which supplies the LA Aqueduct received only 70 percent of normal snowfall. While we’ve made some progress, we’re not completely there yet in recovering from the drought.

The bad news is that the rain dances we were doing in Southern California didn’t produce the results we’d all hoped for. Here, only 6.59 inches of rain have fallen, or about 50 percent of the normal rainfall.

Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says La Niña (with cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, compared to El Niño’s unusually warm ones) appears to be on the way. This could drag the drought on even longer because a shift in Pacific Ocean temperatures could mean a drier-than-normal 2016 winter in Southern California.

Ken Clark, an expert meteorologist with AccuWeather.com told the Los Angeles Times, “We are basically out of time to get back to normal (precipitation), that is, unless something really weird happens.”

While one can never rule out weirdness in Los Angeles, the math is clear: low rainfall plus slow recovery of groundwater levels equals more water conservation efforts needed across the city. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Executive Directive No. 5 to increase conservation (ED 5) targets a 20 percent reduction in per capita water use by 2017 and the mayor’s Sustainable City pLAn targets a 50 percent reduction in imported water use by 2025.

To help residents work toward these goals, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) provides conservation incentives and rebates and Mayor Garcetti has outlined a plan for saving water during the hot summer months. Tips include:

  •       Install a toilet that uses 1.06 gallons per flush or less and get up to $100!
  •       Shorten your showers to five minutes or less.
  •       Turn off your sprinklers when it rains.
  •       Buy a rain barrel, get up to $100 back!
  •       Clean out gutters and downspouts connecting to your rain barrel.
  •       Use water collected in your rain barrel on flowers, plants and lawns.
  •       Trade in your turf and get a $1.75/sq. ft. rebate!

Get more water (and money) saving tips from Save the Drop.

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